Tenders called for military satellite

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 10:06 13/11/2012

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New Zealand's Defence Ministry has begun calling for tenders for a sophisticated wideband military satellite system that will guarantee "a seat at the top table" with any US led military activity.

The ministry launched a request for tender asking for companies to bid on the provision of certified Wideband Global Satellite Communications (WGS) equipment, necessary training, and associated support to the New Zealand Defence Force.

It will also include ground stations in the North Island and on ships.

New Zealand has already committed to spending $82 million for a ninth satellite in a Washington-controlled satellite constellation system that gives highly secure global coverage for data transmission and reception.

Earlier this year the Asia Pacific Defence Reporter magazine reported that Australia joined the system in 2007 for $1.22 billion. Canada, Denmark, the Netherland, Luxembourg and New Zealand clubbed together to fund the ninth satellite.

The system uses Boeing satellites that are regarded as robust and have a greater level of manoeuvrability.

Asia Pacific said the satellites were ''important features in the event of major hostilities because communications satellites could become targets during a serious conflict with, for example, China".

The magazine said that mattered because military organisations needed to be able to move massive amounts of data, especially visual imagery collected from sensors as diverse as cameras on UAVs and satellites, radar imagery from a variety of aircraft and even from hand-held devices in the field.

The magazine said the WGS was a relatively cost-effective option for smaller nations.

"For countries that do not have dedicated military satellites, the use of commercial vehicles can prove to be an expensive way to acquire a global capability," Asia Pacific Defence Reporter said.

"Little New Zealand, for example, is paying around US$3.4 million per year for commercial services and these are rising at 10 per cent per annum."

In time of high demand the spot price can double.

"Compare that with US$67 million for 20 years of guaranteed highly secure global coverage via WGS.

"In addition, New Zealand receives the intangible benefit of being part of a hi-tech US-led military activity - giving them (and the other participants such as Australia) a seat at the top table," the magazine said.

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