The UK Royal Navy has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin to manufacture new ‘Crowsnest’ intelligence, surveillance and tracking system for its new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.
The system will act as the eyes and ears for the Royal Navy’s ships, providing long range air, maritime and land detection and tracking capability, the MoD said in a statement Monday.
Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said, “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.”
Crowsnest will be fitted to the Merlin Mk2 helicopters, which already perform a number of important roles for the Royal Navy, including detecting submarines and undertaking humanitarian aid duties – most recently in helping with part of the coordinated response to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.
Crowsnest will form an integral part of the Carrier Enabled Power Projection (CEPP) capability, which will deliver the two Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers – the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy – from which the UK’s new F-35 Lightning II jets will fly.
Under the deal with Lockheed Martin, Thales UK has been subcontracted to provide the system.
Lockheed Martin, as the prime contractor for Crowsnest, will integrate the selected Thales solution on to the Merlin Mk2 helicopter fleets. This work will be supported by Leonardo Helicopters, who will modify the fleet to fit Crowsnest. The contract also includes £9 million for initial provisioning of spares to support the Crowsnest system during training and operational deployment.
Chief Executive Officer of the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support body, Tony Douglas, said, "Crowsnest will play a key role in protecting the Royal Navy’s future fleet acting as the eyes and ears for the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers."
The Thales solution is an updated and improved version of the Cerberus tactical sensor suite, currently in service on the Sea King Mk7 helicopter.
The design is comprised of a single mechanically scanned radar head, which uses an innovative system to provide 360 degree visibility from the underside of the helicopter, which then folds up to the side of the aircraft when not in operation.