Britain to let Estonia use its top-secret Skynet 5 military satellite system

British media has reported that the United Kingdom has signed up to a NATO initiative to share billions of pounds of military hardware with other countries and Estonia and Latvia could benefit.

The Daily Mail reported that British defence chiefs have signed up to the Lead Nation Procurement Initiative to permit flexible sharing of equipment between the 28 countries of NATO. The scheme was launched in early February and is being run by a branch of the US military, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency.

According to paper, experts believe the UK could soon agree to let Estonia and Latvia use Britain’s “top-secret” Skynet 5 military satellite system.

Skynet is a family of military satellites, operated on behalf of the UK’s Ministry of Defence, which provides strategic communication services to the three branches of the British armed forces and to NATO forces engaged on coalition tasks.

Skynet was created in the 1960s during the Cold War when the satellites became an increasingly important component of signals intelligence and Britain became the third country, after the US and the Soviet Union, to utilise satellites for signals and military intelligence. The largest user of Skynet satellites was the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence and security organisation.

There are currently four Skynet 5 satellites in operation, all launched within the last ten years.

It is unclear how much would Estonia have to pay for the use of Skynet 5 services, but according to the Daily Mail, it is understood that Britain will benefit financially from any leasing arrangements when it buys the kit which it then makes available to NATO partners for collective use.

Estonia-UK defence cooperation goes back long time.

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Cover: Skynet 5.