PETALING JAYA: Apart from a squadron of brand new MRCA, the Armed Forces is hopeful that it will have an X-band communications satellite up and running in 2015.
Armed Forces chief Jen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin told a briefing session organised by the Retired Armed Forces Officers Club last week that if launched by 2015, the satellite would be operational in time with the start of the first phase of its Network Centric Operations project.
He admitted that the satellite would be very expensive but the Armed Forces was hopeful that the government will allocate funds for the project. Due to the high cost of the satellite – US made Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) cost some US335 million alone (RM1.06 billion) excluding the launch cost- the programme is expected to be funded via a Private Finance Initiaive. A company or companies will built/order/launch the satellite on behalf of the Armed Forces, and in return the Government pays the companies an annual fee for using its services. This is the same arrangement used by Japan to procure two X-band satellites which cost some US$1.5 billion.
Using the PFI method the government may end up paying around RM100 million or slightly to lease the bandwidth for 15 years instead of forking up to RM2 billion up-front to procure and launch the satellite, which was the reason Japan used the PFI route
Zulkifeli did not say which company/companies will be involved in the project but I am guessing it will be ATSB – which is already involved in other satellite programme such as Tiungsat 1 and Razak Sat. ATSB is also involved in the National Communications Satellite (NCS) project which is envisaged to support both the government and military communication needs. The NCS is more akin to the WGS as it will be equipped various type of transponders. But I guess the NCS is not in the picture at the moment.
Anyhow, I was told previously that the US had invited Malaysia to join the WGS programme. In Asia Pacific, both Australia and New Zealand are already involved in WGS programme as international partners. Perhaps it will be cheaper in the long run if we were to become a WGS partner but I believe we want to make sure that our communications are secured and away from foreign ears and eyes!
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