Northrop Quits $7.5B UK Military Satellite Competition

Northrop Grumman has withdrawn from a competition to provide the UK military with next-generation satellites for smoother, more secure battlefield communications.

The company said it reached the decision after thoroughly reviewing the invitation to negotiate for the SkyNet 6 narrowband military satellite communications program, Financial Times reported.

Northrop did not elaborate on the exact reasons that prompted its withdrawal.

The American firm teamed up with Airbus to deliver the satellites to the British armed forces for the 6-billion-pound ($7.5-billion) project. Airbus declined to comment on Northrop’s decision.

The recent development makes Thales UK the only contender. It is unclear if the British government will proceed with the preliminary stages or reopen the competition.

About the Program

Launched in 2020, the SkyNet program aims to provide strategic communication services to the UK armed forces and its allies.

It will leverage new space assets, supported by additional commercial services, to provide a reliable and robust communications service.

Up to three wideband GEO satellite systems are expected, along with associated ground equipment and launch operations support.

The ongoing war in Ukraine has highlighted the increasing importance of smooth and secure communications, which combat ships and fighter jets can rely on for more effective attacks.

Casting Doubts

The UK defense ministry expects to see the first satellite under the program launched in 2025.

However, with Northrop’s sudden withdrawal, concerns have surfaced about its future, as Airbus has been operating the previous SkyNet 5 network for the past 18 years.

Northrop’s partner also received a contract to supply the SkyNet 6A satellite designed to fill potential capability gaps before the next-generation SkyNet 6 is produced and launched.

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