One of the UK’s most advanced military satellites will be repositioned over the Asia-Pacific region to provide secure communications to Britain’s allies in the region, a defense minister has announced.
The Skynet 5A satellite
is owned and operated by the global arms firm Airbus Defence and
The “hardened” satellites orbit earth in a
“constellation” composed of eight separate units,
providing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with all its global
“Beyond Line Of Sight” (BLOS) communications capacity.
In a statement published on the MoD website, Defence Minister
Phillip Dunne said: “Today’s announcement that Airbus will be
moving one of the UK’s Skynet 5 satellites to the eastern
Asia-Pacific region is clear proof of how much our relationships
with our international allies matter.
“This is the first time that we have had a secure
communications capability in the region, and shows the depth of
our commitment to our allies and partners in the region,
including Malaysia, in humanitarian and peacekeeping
The MoD explained the system, which is part of a “private
contract initiative,” is also intended for use by
“NATO and other allied governments are able to use Skynet
services to augment their existing communication services.
“It is intended that the Skynet satellite will be in position
by the middle of 2015.”
The scheme will include a new ground base in Australia and comes
at a time when talk of the Western strategic reorientation
towards an increasingly powerful China – known as the “pivot
– has become a key issue
in international politics.
The repositioning was announced at a major arms convention taking
place in Malaysia this month.
This year’s Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA)
jamboree includes exhibits by British defense companies such as
BAE Systems and Rolls Royce.
“A range of world leading British technologies are being
exhibited at LIMA as the United Kingdom looks to strengthen
industrial ties with Malaysia in the defense and security
sectors,” the MoD said.
The British arms industry came under scrutiny earlier this month
when a two-day Security Policing Conference and Exhibition was
hosted in Farnborough, Hampshire, with the press and public
The event, organized by the Home Office, came as Britain
reportedly approved the sale of £16 million worth of anti-riot
equipment, including tear gas and rubber bullets, to countries on
its own human-rights blacklist.
Critics say the British government is prioritizing profits over
human rights. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said the
Farnborough event would focus on the sale and promotion of
military wares commonly deployed for “state repression.”