Australia joins global satellite comms partnership with US

Increased capability coincides with the drawdown of SingTel/Optus C1 satellite

The federal government this week announced a $927 million partnership with the United States to access a world-leading communications capability provided by the new Wideband Global Satellite Communications (WGS) constellation.

Under the partnership arrangement, Australia will fund one satellite plus associated ground infrastructure to extend the constellation to six satellites and the US will fund the remaining five.

The announcement, which is being made by the Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson, at Garden Island in Sydney today, will further strengthen the Australia-US alliance.

Access to the WGS constellation will build on the ability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to conduct multiple and simultaneous military operations independently or as part of a coalition force.

Dr Nelson said secure and reliable satellite communications will be available to deployed forces, operational command and Australian headquarters.

He said WGS also will allow the ADF to realise the full potential of Network Centric Warfare within the next decade.

"The WGS constellation of six satellites will provide a world-class capability in terms of global coverage, operational flexibility and bandwidth," Nelson said.

"It will support multiple simultaneous high-tempo operations and provide a high level of redundancy."

The first WGS satellite is being prepared for launch and will be operational by early 2008.

The complete constellation of six satellites will be fully functional by 2013 and will comfortably handle the increase in ADF communications requirements over this time and out to at least 2024.

Achieving full operational WGS capability by 2013 also will coincide with the predicted capability drawdown of the SingTel/Optus C1 satellite.

The SingTel/Optus C1 satellite will be an important element of Defence's satellite capability until its end of life and will be maintained in parallel with WGS.

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