A Merlin helicopter will be fitted with a new on-board system to deliver essential anti-snooping watch and send early warnings if security threats are detected.
The Merlin Mk2 helicopter will act as the Royal Navy’s eyes and ears for its next generation carriers, replacing the Sea King’s helicopter’s surveillance capabilities.
Philip Dunne, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, said: “It is essential that our ships and particularly our future aircraft carriers will have the best possible protection.
“The Crowsnest system on board our new Merlin Mk2 helicopter will deliver an essential surveillance and intelligence capability, providing early warnings to our personnel of any potential threats.”
The radar and mission system will be supported by Thales and AgustaWestland, the manufacturer of the Merlin helicopter onto which the system will be able to be fitted.
The upgraded Merlin Mk2 helicopters are advanced maritime helicopter, which already provide various functions including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and humanitarian duties.
The Crowsnest project 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.
Air Vice-Marshal Julian Young, Director Helicopters at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, said: “The Thales solution 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.”
Lockheed Martin UK will now conclude the project’s £27m assessment phase by 2016 and around 300 jobs will be created in Crawley, Havant and Yeovil once the manufacturing phase begins.