The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a contract to Astrium to deliver military X-band satellite communications capability through the Skynet 5 constellation to six Royal Navy mine countermeasure vessels.

As part of the five-year Deployable Maritime Milsat (DMM) programme, Astrium will deliver and deploy its SCOTPatrol 0.8m maritime satellite terminal to enable the vessels to benefit from the additional protection and assurance offered by the Skynet 5 system.

Under the contract, Astrium will integrate the terminal with Skynet 5 satellite ground terminal architecture to capitalise on a new, soon-to-be introduced IP-based global interconnect network.

"It will enable these vessels to play a full part in future operations."

Aimed to enable full integration into Future Force Structure 2020, the DMM programme involves installation of all of the satellite terminals and baseband equipment on certain mine counter measures vessels in the service.

Astrium services government communications executive director Simon Kershaw said that the armed forces would have the most advanced capabilities through this programme.

SCOTPatrol is a lighter next-generation naval satellite communications terminal, which is suitable for smaller naval ships and needs minimum maintenance.

"It will enable these vessels to play a full part in future operations," Kershaw added.

In October 2003, the UK MoD had awarded Skynet 5 contract to Astrium Services to provide satellite communications worldwide for its armed forces until 2022.

The navy is also planning to provide military X-band satellite communications capabilities to a further six vessels when required.

Currently, the service operates Hunt-class minehunter and minesweeper vessels and Sandown-class minehunter ships to counter naval mine threats.