Ministry of Defence
051/99 February 27, 1999


The Ministry of Defence's latest military communications satellite,
SKYNET 4E, was launched last night from the European Space Agency's
launch site at Kourou in French Guyana.

The satellite, built by Matra Marconi Space (UK), was launched by an
Ariane 4 booster rocket, supplied by Arianespace.

Lord Gilbert, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, said:

"Satellite communications are essential to support all aspects of
modern military operations. They provide communications support for
our strategic and tactical nuclear forces, maritime, air and land
forces under both NATO and national tasking, together with UK forces
deployed overseas.

"SKYNET 4E, like the others in this latest generation of military
satellites, has an enhanced communications package, and will provide
UHF (Ultra-High Frequency) and SHF (Super-High Frequency)
communications services to support our forces in today's enhanced
roles, such as the NATO Rapid Reaction Force, and support of
humanitarian aid anywhere within the satellite's coverage area.

"The successful launch of SKYNET 4E ensures that this essential
service is continued into the next century."

SKYNET 4E is the latest in a line of UK military communications
satellites, going back to SKYNET 1, launched in the late 1960s.
SKYNET 4 first entered service in 1988. Three satellites were built
by British Aerospace and Marconi (now part of Matra Marconi Space)
for UK service, and two more for NATO. These are controlled by the
Royal Air Force from ground stations in the UK.

As the first series of these UK satellites (SKYNET 4A, B and C) reach
the end of their operational lives, after providing good service for
nearly a decade, they are being replaced by three further satellites
(SKYNET 4D, E and F), known collectively as SKYNET 4 Stage 2. The
SKYNET 4 Stage 2 programme is the subject of a fixed price prime
contract placed with Matra Marconi Space in 1993. It covers the
design,production, launch and in-orbit testing and delivery in-orbit
of these satellites, together with associated ground station work.

SKYNET 4D was launched in January 1998, and replaced SKYNET 4B, the
oldest of the Stage 1 satellites. The remaining pair, SKYNET 4A and
C, still have sone useful life left, and will continue to serve
alongside the Stage 2 satellites in the short term. The remaining
launch of the programme, of SKYNET 4F, is planned for early 2000.

The SKYNET 4 Stage 2 satellites are scheduled to be replaced in the
middle of the next decade by the SKYNET 5 programme. Contracts for a
competitive Private Finance Initiative design study phase are about
to be placed, with an implementation contract planned to be let in
early 2002.