New Surveillance System Chosen for Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers

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A new helicopter-borne surveillance system has been chosen to protect the Royal Navy’s future Queen Elizabeth Class carriers.

The MOD and Lockheed Martin UK, as the prime contractor for Crowsnest, have selected Thales as the chosen bidder to provide the radar and mission system at the heart of the Crowsnest capability.

The Crowsnest project will act as the Royal Navy’s eyes and ears for its next generation carriers, giving long range air, maritime and land detection, as well as the capability to track potential threats. Crowsnest will also be able to support wider fleet and land operations, replacing the Sea King helicopter’s Airborne Surveillance and Control capability that has been deployed on regular operations since 1982.

Lockheed Martin UK will now conclude the project’s £27 million assessment phase, expected in 2016, supported by Thales and AgustaWestland, the manufacturer of the Merlin helicopter onto which the system will be able to be fitted.

Once a decision has been taken to proceed into the manufacture phase, it is expected that around 300 jobs will be sustained across these companies in Crawley, Havant and Yeovil.


The upgraded Merlin Mk2 helicopters are the world’s most advanced maritime helicopter, which already provide various functions including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and humanitarian duties.

Crowsnest is part of the UK’s future aircraft carrier capability, which will deliver two Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers and fifth generation Lightning II fast jets to operate from them across the world.


The Thales solution is an updated, improved and repackaged role-fit version of the Cerberus tactical sensor suite currently in service on the Sea King Mk7 helicopter.

The design comprises of a single mechanically scanned radar head which uses an innovative system to provide 360o visibility from the underside of the helicopter, and which folds up to the side of the aircraft when not in operation.

You can read more about the importance of Crowsnest to our Carrier programme from Minister of State for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne here. Images of Crowsnest and Merlin MK2 helicopters are also available to download.

Image: Royal Navy

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