Britain’s military plans to replace its ageing Skynet war satellites to meet the bandwidth demands of its expanding Special Forces and drone operations.
It is the first sign of the UK’s ambitions to create the next generation of military space satellites to replace the Skynet A5, the original version of which came into service in the 1960s.
It is now considering how to proceed with its Future Beyond Line of Sight (FBLOS) program.
Given the shadowy nature of the project, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been vague about the specifics, telling Defence News: “We continue to consider a range of options for the FBLOS project and aim to submit the initial business case this summer.”
The existing system was produced by arms giant Airbus. Upgrades are required to increase bandwidth to support the UK’s increasingly clandestine operations using special forces, the forthcoming F-35 combat aircraft and, perhaps most significantly, its expanding drone fleet.
The forthcoming assessment of military requirements will be carried out from the early 2020s to the end of that decade.
The upgrade is indicative of emerging trends in warfare, at a time when public resistance to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has made large-scale troop deployments politically untenable.
Chris Cole, of the NGO Drone Wars, wrote on the possibility of a connection between Skynet and British military drones as long ago as 2010.
However, in a blog on the topic he pointed out: “Skynet 5 however is not owned by the Ministry of Defence, but by a private company called Paradigm Secure Communication.”
This would render Skynet virtually impervious to freedom of information (FoI) requests regarding its links with drone warfare, which can only be put to public bodies.
Speaking to RT on Friday, Cole said that as well as “doubling the UK’s current armed drone fleet and investing heavily in the development of future drones” the UK is working quietly to install “secret communication systems to enable the UK to use its armed drones right around the globe.”
He warned: “The continuing development of Skynet is an integral part of the government’s strategy to follow the US down the path of being able to target those it considers to be a threat, anywhere in the world.”