Japan Selects Military Satellite Telecom Provider

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LONDON — The Japanese government has selected a consortium led by SkyPerfect JSat to build and launch two X-band military telecommunications satellites and operate them for 15 years under a private finance initiative, a Japanese Defense Ministry official said Nov. 28.

The consortium, which includes NEC, NTT and Maeda Corp., is expected to create a special purpose company that will sign the service provision contract in the coming weeks, the official said. The satellites would be launched in 2015 or 2016.

In a presentation here during the Global Milsatcom conference organized by SMi Group, Masayuki Iwaike, director of missile defense and space policy at the defense ministry, said the Japanese government will retain ownership of the satellites for the contract’s duration.

Iwaike reaffirmed earlier Japanese estimates that it would cost the government about $1.5 billion to build a similar system on its own, forcing a short-term capital investment charge that government officials do not want to incur.

Instead, the special purpose company will be taking out loans to cover the cost of the two satellites. Annual payments on the loan are expected to total about $1.5 billion after 15 years, Iwaike said.

The arrangement will enable Japan to reduce the amount of lease charges it must pay each year — to SkyPerfect JSat and others — for X-band capacity on Japan’s commercial Superbird satellites. Japanese officials have estimated that the government makes annual bandwidth-lease payments of some 6 billion Japanese yen, or $73 million.

Japanese military forces currently use secure X-band communications links aboard the Superbird D, Superbird B2 and Superbird C2 satellites, the latter two of which were launched in 2000 and are expected to be retired around 2015.

Iwaike said Japan had weighed, but then dropped, the idea of joining the U.S.-led Wideband Global Satcom system of X- and Ka-band geostationary satellites, which has attracted a half-dozen other nations. That constellation now has 10 planned satellites.

He said the decision was made in part because of Japan’s large installed base of Ka-band terminals that use a signal-polarization scheme that is incompatible with the Wideband Global Satcom system.