The UK defence ministry has awarded Lockheed Martin a £269 million contract to deliver the Royal Navy’s new airborne surveillance and control system that will protect the nation’s future Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
Named Crowsnest, the new system will see the Royal Navy’s Merlin MK2 helicopters fitted with a long range air, maritime and land detection and tracking capability enabling them to act as the eyes and ears for the Royal Navy’s ships.
Crowsnest is considered an important step in the carrier programme and will form an integral part of the country’s carrier enabled power projection (CEPP) capability.
Lockheed Martin, who acts as the Ministry of Defence’s prime contractor for the Merlin helicopter, selected a new generation of the Thales Searchwater radar and Cerberus mission system to be fitted to existing Merlin Mk2s helicopters to provide the Navy with an airborne surveillance and control capability (ASaC).
The contract formally marks the beginning of the design and manufacture of role-fit equipment to be fitted to the fleet of Merlin helicopters which will serve the Royal Navy until 2029 and replace the outgoing Sea King Mark 7 ASaC force, fitted with an earlier version of the Thales Searchwater and Cerberus systems.
The new capability will begin to enter service when the last of the Sea King ASaC helicopters are retired and will maximise the re-use of the Ministry of Defence’s existing investment in equipment, training and expertise by upgrading, updating and adapting a battle proven capability.
“Crowsnest will provide a vital intelligence, surveillance and tracking system for our new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, capable of detecting any potential threats at sea,” Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said.