The UK Royal Navy (RN) is preparing to retire its last Sea King ASaC.7 (SKASaC) helicopters, bringing to an end the Sea King’s near 50-year career in UK military service.
Two of the remaining SKASaC aircraft from 849 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) flew a farewell flypast around southwest England on 19 September in company with a Merlin HM2 helicopter. The Merlin HM2, equipped with the Crowsnest mission package, will take on the airborne surveillance and control role for the RN’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
The last deployed flight from 849 NAS came off operations supporting Operation ‘Kipion’ in the Gulf at the end of June. The squadron, based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in southwest England, will continue to hold a contingency readiness for the Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) through to 25 September: the last four ASaC.7 aircraft are planned to fly to HMS Sultan, near Portsmouth, the following day for final disposal.
With the demise of the SKASaC, 849 NAS will ‘ghost’ until reactivated in 2019 with the Merlin HM2 helicopter and the new Crowsnest mission fit. As well as the acquisition of 10 radar/mission system kits, the Crowsnest programme also covers the embodiment of ‘fit-to-receive’ modifications for all 30 Merlin HM2s, plus training and initial support.
Lockheed Martin UK is prime contractor for the Crowsnest programme, with Thales UK providing a radar and mission system evolved from the SKASaC’s existing Searchwater/Cerberus systems. Leonardo Helicopters is taking responsibility for Merlin air vehicle modifications, integration, and packaging of the role-fit kits.
The Crowsnest radar fit leverages from the existing Searchwater 2000, but introduces a number of enhancements including additional radar modes and improved detection performance against low radar cross-section targets. The radar scanner will be deployed using a ‘hinged’ antenna fit on the Merlin HM2’s port weapon station.
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