The United Kingdom has awarded a GBP269 million (USD327 million) contract to Lockheed Martin to build Crowsnest airborne surveillance and control (ASaC) systems for the Royal Navy.
Crowsnest is the replacement for the service's Sea King ASaC.7 (SKASaC) helicopters, due to retire in September 2018. In total 10 Crowsnest systems are being bought, which all 30 of the Royal Navy's Leonardo AW101 Merlin HM.2 helicopters will be modified to carry, as required.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) selected Lockheed Martin UK as prime contractor for the programme in May 2015, with Thales to work as a subcontractor. The MoD opted for Crowsnest to be based around updating the Thales Searchwater mechanically scanned array radar and Cerberus sensor suite systems used on the current SKASaC helicopters. According to the MoD the contract also includes GBP9 million of spares.
In a statement announcing the awarding of the contract on 16 January Harriett Baldwin, Minister for Defence Procurement, 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."
Speaking to IHS Jane's on 17 January, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said that the first 'production role' Crowsnest kit is due to be delivered to the MoD in October 2018, with a first production aircraft available in June 2019. The system is then expected to enter service with an initial operating capability on the Merlin HM.2 in 2020.
The Crowsnest radome is mounted to the side of a Merlin helicopter, and can be lowered for operation and raised for landing.
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