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Crowsnest Helicopter Surveillance Deal to Protect Carriers Sustains 200 High-Skilled UK Jobs


19 January 2017

The MOD announces £269m deal for Crowsnest system to protect new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.

The deal with Lockheed Martin will see the start of manufacturing on the new Crowsnest system. It will act as the eyes and ears for the Royal Navy’s ships, providing long range air, maritime and land detection and tracking capability.

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 is an important step in the ambitious carrier programme and 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, work on which will sustain over 200 UK jobs in Crawley, Havant and Yeovil.

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.

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.

Jobs breakdown

Lockheed Martin (Havant) – 60 jobs

Thales (Crawley) – 90 jobs

Leonardo Helicopters (Yeovil) – 60 jobs

Source: MOD