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Skynet 6A successfully passes Preliminary Design Review

Ashish Singh

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Airbus has successfully completed the first key phase of the Skynet 6A project with the achievement of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR). The project now has permission to move into the next phase leading to the Critical Design Review (CDR).

Airbus was awarded the Skynet 6A contract in July 2020 and teams across its sites in Stevenage, Portsmouth and Hawthorn have been working on the programme to achieve this key milestone. Meetings with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) were held virtually enabling the review board to take place in October and the PDR being achieved in November.

Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space UK said “This is excellent news and demonstrates our joint commitment to work in partnership to achieve the programme schedule. The progress we are making in building the UK MOD’s next generation military satellite and getting to this stage, despite current restrictions, really highlights the flexible and strong working relationship we have built with the Defence Digital team. Skynet 6A, to be built entirely in the UK, will significantly enhance the UK’s milsatcoms capability, building on the heritage of the four Skynet 5 satellites which were also built by Airbus, and which are all still operating perfectly in orbit.”

Teams from across the space and ground segments in Airbus worked closely with their MOD counterparts to keep the programme on track.

Skynet 6A will extend and enhance the Skynet fleet. The contract signed with the UK MoD in July 2020 involves the development, manufacture, cyber protection, assembly, integration, test and launch, of a military communications satellite, Skynet 6A, planned for launch in 2025.

The contract also covers technology development programmes, new secure telemetry, tracking and command systems, launch, in-orbit testing and ground segment updates to the current Skynet 5 system. The value of the contract is more than £500 million. The Skynet 5 programme, provided by Airbus as a full service outsource contract, has provided the UK MoD with a suite of highly robust, reliable and secure military communications services, supporting global operations since 2003.

Airbus has been involved in all Skynet phases since 1974 and this phase builds on a strong UK commitment to space manufacturing in the UK. The programme commenced by using the legacy Skynet 4 satellites and then augmenting them with a fully refurbished ground network before launching the Skynet 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D satellites between 2007 and 2012. The Skynet 5 programme has reduced or removed many of the technical and service risks for the MOD, whilst ensuring unrivalled secure satcoms and innovation to UK forces. Through the many years of delivering an exceptionally reliable Skynet service the Airbus teams have managed to significantly extend the lifespan of the Skynet satellites many years beyond their design life, offering significant additional value for money and capability to the UK.

The Skynet 6A satellite is based on Airbus’ Eurostar Neo telecommunications satellite platform. It will utilise more of the radio frequency spectrum available for satellite communications and the latest digital processing to provide both more capacity and greater versatility than Skynet 5 satellites. The satellite will feature electric orbit raising propulsion as well as electric station keeping systems for maximum cost effectiveness. Complete satellite integration will take place at Airbus facilities in the UK followed by testing using RAL Space testing facilities at Harwell in Oxfordshire supporting the UK Space Agency initiative for sovereign UK end-to-end satellite production and support.

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Defence

NCC REMEMBERS MARTYRS OF JALLIANWALA BAGH

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National Cadet Corps (NCC) paid homage to the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh massacre who lost their lives on April 13th in 1919. The homage coincides with the ongoing ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ wherein the nation is celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Independence. The cadets of NCC, which has a strong cadet base of 14 lakhs, gathered at 75 places across the country paying gratitude to the freedom fighters through Nukkad Nataks, patriotic songs, speeches and skits. This tribute by the cadets filled the environment with patriotic fervour with many locals also joining the events. The social media was also flooded with #NCCremembersJallianwala.

On the occasion, the NCC also launched a pan-India campaign to educate people against ‘Single use Plastics’. The cadets gathered at these 75 locations after conducting Plog Runs and spreading the message of cleanliness and putting an end to ‘Single use Plastic’. The message was spread on social media through #NCCagainstPlastic. The NCC, a premier uniformed youth organisation of the country, has contributed significantly in nation building since its inception. It has transformed the lives of millions of youth by shaping their character and showing them the path of ‘Unity and Discipline’. The corps has made praiseworthy contributions in spreading awareness amongst the masses on important issues like water conservation, environment protection, digital awareness and Swachhta Abhiyan.

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Defence

NORWAY’S FIRST P-8A AIRCRAFT MOVES INTO ASSEMBLY

Fuselage arrival in Renton marks a major production milestone.

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The first P-8A Poseidon fuselage for Norway arrived at Boeing facilities in Renton, Washington, from Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, marking a major milestone in the production of the first of five Poseidons for the Royal Norwegian Air Force. A derivative of the Boeing 737 Next-Generation commercial aircraft, the P-8 is first assembled at Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ 737 production line, where the fuselage receives additional wiring and systems needed to support military components, equipment and operation. The aircraft is then delivered to Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security unit for the installation of military systems, testing and delivery to military customers. “Boeing uses a proven in-line production process to efficiently build the aircraft”, said Christian Thomsen, P-8A Europe program manager. “Implementing established best practices and common, commercial production-system tools enables the team to reduce flow time and cost while ensuring quality and on-time delivery to our customers.”, He added.

Norway is expected to receive its first P-8 later this year. In total, five P-8s will eventually replace Norway’s current fleet of six P-3 Orions and three DA-20 Jet Falcons and will provide advanced capabilities to maintain situational awareness in neighbouring waters on and below the surface of the ocean. To date, Boeing has delivered 104 P-8 aircraft to the U.S. Navy and customers in Australia, India and the United Kingdom.

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Defence

A COLOURFUL PASSING OUT PARADE CONDUCTED AT INSTITUTE OF NATIONAL INTEGRATION IN PUNE

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The Institute of National Integration (INI) of Indian Army is located at Dapodi, Pune. The Institute is a true emissary of Indian Army’s stated goal of ‘Nation Building’ through ‘National Integration’ as summarized by INI’s logo ‘Unity and Diversity’. The INI was an outcome of ideas between the Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff in 1980, as a pilot project of giving depth to cohesion and inter faith harmony which prevails in the Indian Army. A batch of 31 Recruits qualified were appointed religious teachers (RT) in the rank of Junior Commissioned Officers on 13th April. A colourful Passing Out Parade was conducted at Institute of National Integration, Pune. Brigadier Hardeep Singh Dhodi, Commandant of Institute, reviewed the parade and awarded General Officer Commanding in Chief, Army Training Command and INI Commandant’s Silver Medal to Naib Subedar Puneet Bhargav of Raj Rif Regtl Centre and Gold Medal to Naib Subedar Gurnarender Singh of BEG & Centre Kirkee,, respectively who distinguished themselves in respective facets of intense training.

The Commandant congratulated the newly commissioned JCOs and their parents, for successful completion of training incorporating subjects related to National Integration, Behaviour & Social Science including Spiritualism, Yoga, Psychological Counselling and Stress Management. The Religious Teachers passing out from INI are ready to perform assigned duties of ‘Dharam Yodha’ as also shoulder additional responsibilities of a Psychological Counselor and Mental Health Mentor for troops deployed across varied and harsh terrains along Northern and Eastern Borders. The Religious teachers in Indian Army play a prominent role towards building up of Morale, Motivation amongst troops and their families, to serve as a catalyst toward Unit Cohesion, thus contributing to Battle Winning Ethos prevailing in units. Their primary role is to instil unity and create an ethos of secularism in the Armed Force.

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Defence

INDIAN ARMY HAVILDAR DIES AT LAC IN EASTERN LADAKH

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In the line of duty, Indian Army Havildar Bhadouria Kuldip Suresh Singh fainted on 8 April 2021 and was rushed to the hospital but later declared dead due to Acute Coronary Syndrome (Query) Massive at Ladakh. He was deployed in eastern Ladakh along Line of Actual Control (LAC) since 23 August 2020 at an altitude of 16,082 feet with extreme climatic conditions coupled with temperature plummeting to -35 degree and high velocity winds.

Mortal remains of battle casualty Havildar Bhadouria Kuldip Suresh Singh of 12 Guards were transported in civil aircraft by Air India AI 531 to Ahmedabad. Homage was paid to him at the Ahmedabad airport by Army officials and Commanding Officer. Mortal remains were further escorted to his native place at Jantanagar, Chandkehda, Ahmedabad with full military honours for the funeral rites. Hav Bhadouria Kuldip Suresh Singh was enrolled in Indian Army on 25 September 2000. A selfless soldier with unprecedented bravery and indefatigable will who served with high level of commitment throughout his career. The soldier served from the scorching deserts of Rajasthan to icy heights of Ladakh to the High Altitude Active Area of Jammu & Kashmir. On 8th April, the soldier breathed his last while defending the nation in such inhospitable condition conforming to the highest values and ethos of Indian Army. Mortal remains of the soldier were paid full military honours by personnel and senior officials of Army by laying wreaths at Ahmedabad Cantonment before being transported to his native place in Ahmedabad.

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Defence

AIRBUS AND TNO TO DEVELOP AIRCRAFT LASER COMMUNICATION TERMINAL

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Airbus and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) have launched a programme to develop a laser communication terminal demonstrator for aircraft, known as UltraAir. The project, which is co-financed by Airbus, TNO and the Netherlands Space Office (NSO), is part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ScyLight (Secure and Laser communication technology) programme. It covers the design, construction and testing of the technology demonstrator. Laser communication technologies are the next revolution in satellite communications (satcom), bringing unprecedented transmission rates, data security and resilience to meet commercial needs in the next decade.

The UltraAir terminal will be capable of laser connections between an aircraft and a satellite in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the Earth, with unparalleled technology including a highly stable and precise optical mechatronic system. The technology demonstrator will pave the way for a future UltraAir product with which data transmission rates could reach several gigabits-per-second while providing anti-jamming and low probability of interception. In this way UltraAir will not only enable military aircraft and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to connect within a combat cloud, but also in the longer term allow airline passengers to establish high-speed data connections thanks to the Airbus’ SpaceDataHighway constellation. From their position in geostationary orbit, the SpaceDataHighway (EDRS) satellites relay data collected by observation satellites to Earth in near-real-time, a process that would normally take several hours.

Airbus is leading the project and brings its unique expertise in laser satellite communications, developed with the SpaceDataHighway programme. It will coordinate the development of the terminal and testing on the ground and in the air. As key partner of the project, TNO provides its experience in high-precision opto-mechatronics, supported by the Dutch high-tech and space industry. Airbus Defence and Space in the Netherlands will be responsible for the industrial production of the terminals. Airbus’ subsidiary Tesat brings its technical expertise in laser communication systems and will be involved in all testing activities. The first tests will take place at the end of 2021 in laboratory conditions at Tesat. In a second phase, ground tests will start early 2022 in Tenerife (Spain), where connectivity will be established between an UltraAir demonstrator and the laser terminal embarked on the Alphasat satellite using the ESA Optical Ground Station. For the final verification, the UltraAir demonstrator will be integrated on an aircraft for flight testing by mid-2022.

As satellite services demand is growing, the traditional satcom radio-frequency bands are experiencing bottlenecks. Laser links also have the benefit of avoiding interference and detection, as in comparison to the already-crowded radio frequencies, laser communication is extremely difficult to intercept due to a much narrower beam. Thus, laser terminals can be lighter, consume less power and offer even better security than radio. This new programme is a key milestone in the roadmap of Airbus’ overall strategy to drive laser communications further, which will bring forward the benefits of this technology as a key differentiator for providing Multi-Domain collaboration for Government and defence customers.

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ARMY APPOINTS THE NEW CORPS COMMANDER OF 1 CORPS

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Indian Army’s Mathura headquartered 1 corps has got a new Corps Commander. Lt Gen Manoj Kumar Katiyar has been appointed as the new 1 Corps Commander. 1 Corps is a military field formation of the Indian Army. Lt Gen Manoj Kumar Katiyar is an alumnus of Sainik School Ghorakhal. After his military training in National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla and Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, he was commissioned in 23rd Battalion of the Rajput Regiment in June 1986. He commanded his battalion twice; along the Line of Control in J&K and along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh. He commanded an Infantry Brigade along Western Borders and an Army HQ reserve Mountain Division.

The General Officer has done all important courses to include Defence Services Staff Course and attended the National Defence College. He is also a Distinguished Graduate of National War College, USA. He has been an instructor in Indian Military Training Team in Bhutan and a Directing Staff at Defence Services Staff College. His staff appointments include a Grade 1 post in Military Operations Directorate and Brigadier General Staff appointments in a Corps HQ and a Command HQ. His previous appointment was of Director General Staff Duties in Army HQ.

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