Following the announcement of the new Flying-HK-style "Reaper" death machines for the British forces, the prophetic nature of the Terminator movies has been further confirmed.
Not only will the UK MoD deploy airborne cyber-gunships remarkably similar to those in the films, the flying robot assassins will be controlled by an IT project named "Skynet".
This latest case of life imitating art (well, kind of art) was revealed this morning, with the news that the first of the Skynet 5 satellites has gone operational and is now successfully carrying data to and from British forces fighting in Southwest Asia.
"This important milestone is very good news for the armed forces," said Lord Drayson, the Minister for Defence Procurement. "Skynet 5 will supply about 2.5 times the capacity of the old system and generate a very significant improvement for our global communications systems - allowing us to pass more data faster. It is an excellent example of a successful Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal."
This PFI was the largest ever signed by the UK MoD, around £3.6bn in total. The Skynet 5 satellites are run by Paradigm Secure Communications and were built by EADS-Astrium. Skynet 5A was launched into space aboard an Ariane 5-ECA rocket from French Guiana in March, sharing the ride with an Indian TV platform. Skynet 5B and 5C will follow later this year and next.
It seems pretty clear that the Reaper flying kill machines will be run using the Skynet satellites, not any other comms channels.
"Take for example the capability of unmanned air vehicles. These generate a lot of imagery and that has to be passed over a secure communications link," according to Bill Sweetman, technology and aerospace editor for defence analysts Jane's.
"The practice is to offload mundane traffic on to commercial satellites and then to use a complementary, secure proprietary system for the traffic that has to be protected."
And it may not just be the Reapers that are controlled by Skynet. There's no word yet of any plans to cloak Asimo robots in living flesh cloned from large Austrian bodybuilders, but it can only be a matter of time.
"Ground control segments for the new system have been upgraded," reported the Beeb today. "Ships, planes and land vehicles are being equipped to make the best use of the upgraded Skynet."
Or for Skynet to make use of them. ®
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