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Crowsnest ASaC achieves IOC

Pictured at the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose on 5 September is one of two Crowsnest-configured Merlin HM2 helicopters from 820 NAS now embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth for CSG23/Operation ‘Firedrake'. (Richard Scott/NAVYPIX)

The UK Royal Navy (RN) has achieved initial operating capability (IOC) for its much-delayed Crowsnest airborne surveillance and control (ASaC) capability.

Crowsnest is a role-fit for the Merlin HM2 helicopter, which swaps out the standard mission console and sonics suite for an ASaC mission system/radar package derived from that previously fitted to the Sea King ASaC7 helicopter. Lockheed Martin, as prime contractor, is responsible for integrating the Thales-supplied Crowsnest radar/mission system into the Merlin HM2. Leonardo Helicopters UK is supporting the modification of the 30-strong HM2 fleet to receive the Crowsnest fit.

Confirming the milestone on board the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on 8 September just prior to commencing the Carrier Strike Group 23 (CSG23) deployment – Operation ‘Firedrake' – Commodore James Blackmore, commander of the CSG, said that the IOC standard marked a major step forward.

“It's giving us integrated Link 16, the ability to provide a recognised air picture and, to a degree, a recognised surface picture as well that we can integrate into the combat management system and wider force,” Cdre Blackmore said. “This will deliver enhanced situational awareness – not only to the F-35, and other rotary-wing [aircraft besides the Crowsnest], but also to our principal warfare commanders.

“So when the F-35s are flying, we'll have Crowsnest up as well,” Cdre Blackmore added. “They will give us those enhanced ‘eyes' looking beyond the horizon, while also being able to perform fighter control.”

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