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US delays Royal Navy satellite comms project

Only 31 months late

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A Royal Navy communications project is 31 months late because development of components at the US Department of Defense is behind schedule.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report on major Ministry of Defence (MoD) projects says the Naval Extremely High Frequency/Super High Frequency Satellite Communications Terminals programme relies on satellite and other equipment supplied by the US. It also says that the MoD has long experience of the risks arising from having very little real power to influence US projects.

"This key dependency was not identified as one of the top risks when the main investment decision was taken for the Naval Extremely High Frequency/Super High Frequency Satellite Communications Terminals project," says the report.

The programme will provide communications primarily for submarines. The report says that the ability to communicate at super high frequency will enable high capacity information exchange, although not in all environments. The extremely high frequency facility will enable the exchange of large volumes of information, while protecting against jamming and ensuring a submarine remains hard to detect.

The system is designed to be interoperable with the US and other allies. However, the NAO says that some of the specific details of the programme are classified and its analysis therefore "contains some generalised comments".

As a temporary solution, the MoD has developed a low cost interim communication system for both the existing Trafalgar Class submarines and the new Astute Class submarines. According to the NAO, this will lessen the potential capability gap.

The NAO's report found that nine MoD projects have got later over the past year.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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