Tim Furniss/LONDON

The UK has abandoned plans to join the £1 billion ($1.6 billion) UK-Franco-German Trimilsatcom next generation military communications satellite programme because it is concerned that a European collaborative programme will result in delays.

The UK Government has decided instead to develop its own national successor to the Skynet 4 military communications satellite system which will be withdrawn from service early next century.

Trimilsatcom had been the UK's preferred option to meet its Skynet 5 requirement but the Ministry of Defence decided that to join the project definition phase for the trilateral project could be a protracted and complicated affair.

"The UK has been considering a range of procurement options for meeting our Skynet 5 requirement for future military satellite communications," said Lord Gilbert, Minister of State for Defence Procurement.

"Crucially, we will be unable to rely on-collaborative processes being able to meet the UK's needs with respect to an in-service date."

"The decision not to pursue a major programme like Trimilsatcom has not been taken lightly", he added.

Two tri-national consortia, led by Alcatel of France and Anglo-French group Matra-Marconi Space, submitted bids for project definition work for Trimilsatcom following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in December 1997 by France, Germany and the UK.

The UK also received bids for a national programme from Matra-Marconi Space and British Aerospace teamed with Lockheed Martin of the USA.

The new national system is expected to cost more than £100 million apiece for up to four satellites with funding provided via a private finance initiative deal.

Both Bonn and Paris plan to hold talks to decide whether to continue with a bilateral venture.

Source: Flight International