The BT-NSSLGlobal-ViaSat consortium is set to face off against Airbus, Babcock and Serco for the Service Delivery Wrap contract. The group said it can provide the Ministry of Defence (MOD) ‘fully managed best-in-class SATCOM solutions.’

The MOD is expected to award the Skynet 6 SDW contract in 2022, with the three companies saying they had come together ‘to respond to major UK MOD programmes’.

Outside of current MOD contracts, the three companies said they were ‘strongly positioned’ to contribute to the development of the UK’s defence and space agenda, providing expertise in SATCOM, cybersecurity, service delivery and tactical networks.

The SDW competition was initiated by the UK in late 2019 in support of the wider Skynet 6 SATCOM programme. The programme will consist of a five-year contract to support Skynet 6 and will replace the existing Skynet 5 contract which will deliver SATCOM services to the MOD up until August 2022.

Executives comments on partnerships

BT major government director Ed Stainton, said: “The combined strengths of this new alliance will bring leading-edge technical expertise to the MOD across maritime, air, land, space and cyber environments. We will build on a strong innovation culture and access to best-of-breed technologies to work collaboratively with our alliance partners to deliver military-grade, mission-critical communications services to the MOD and other government departments.

“For BT, this is an example of how we are striving to do the best for our customers and for our country.”

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NSSLGlobal Defence and Space Programmes director Neil Fraser said: “As a British company, we have a strong 40-year ‘tried and tested’ heritage of working in partnership with the UK Armed Forces. The expertise of our dedicated staff and engineers is one of our key assets, providing innovative communications across sea, land and air. The strength of this alliance is embedded in our shared values of providing excellent service and our complementary skills and expertise.”

Viasat UK Government Systems managing director Steve Beeching added: “We bring deep expertise in working with the MOD and an extensive track record of innovative credentials to this team. In collaborating with BT and NSSLGlobal, we will be able to provide crucial advancements from the defence and commercial sectors to quickly modernise the UK’s Armed Forces capabilities and make the battlespace network of the future a reality for our servicemen and women.

“Together, this alliance is poised to become a national asset to the MOD for current and future communications and space programmes as it has the ability to enhance information advantage by utilising some of the world’s leading SATCOM, tactical networking, cyber and emerging defence technologies.”

What is Skynet 6?

At last year’s DSEI event, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced further funding for the UK’s Skynet SATCOM programme. It was at the event that Wallace announced the launch of the Skynet 6 SDW competition to operate and maintain the communications network.

At the time Wallace said: “Fifty years ago Britain put its first satellite, Skynet1, in space. Today we’re having to deal with increasing threats to satellite-based navigation. The need for robust communications has never been more vital.

“That’s why we’re developing Skynet6 which will give our forces unparalleled capacity to talk to each other in any hostile environment.”

In the past, the MOD said it aims for Skynet 6 to be able to “facilitate the transmission of secure communications from a ship at sea, support Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operations, allow fighter jet pilots to receive or upload operational data in real-time, or enable land forces to conduct missions in remote environments.”

The total value of the various Skynet 6 contracts combined is around £6bn.