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MoD reveals new surveillance system for future Royal Navy aircraft carriers

22 May 2015

A new helicopter-borne surveillance system called Crowsnest has been chosen to protect the Royal Navy’s future Queen Elizabeth Class carriers.

Computer-generated image of flight deck operations on the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (courtesy of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance)

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Lockheed Martin UK, as the prime contractor for Crowsnest, have selected Thales as the chosen bidder to provide the radar and mission system at the heart of the Crowsnest capability.
The Crowsnest project will act as the Royal Navy’s eyes and ears for its next generation carriers, giving long range air, maritime and land detection, as well as the capability to track potential threats. Crowsnest will also be able to support wider fleet and land operations, replacing the Sea King helicopter’s Airborne Surveillance and Control capability that has been deployed on regular operations since 1982. 

Lockheed Martin UK will now conclude the project’s £27 million assessment phase, expected in 2016, supported by Thales and AgustaWestland, the manufacturer of the Merlin helicopter on which the system will be fitted. 

Once a decision has been taken to proceed into the manufacture phase, it is expected that around 300 jobs will be sustained across these companies in Crawley, Havant and Yeovil.

The upgraded Merlin Mk2 helicopters are the world’s most advanced maritime helicopter, which already provide various functions, including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and humanitarian duties. 

Crowsnest is part of the UK’s future aircraft carrier capability, which will deliver two Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers and fifth generation Lightning II fast jets to operate from them across the world.

The Thales system is an updated, improved and repackaged role-fit version of the Cerberus tactical sensor suite currently in service on the Sea King Mk7 helicopter.

The design comprises of a single mechanically scanned radar head which uses an innovative system to provide 360° visibility from the underside of the helicopter, and which folds up to the side of the aircraft when not in operation.

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