The upgrade aimed to allow additional capabilities for the Royal Navy including the establishment of an additional command operations centre on board for direction of wider task group operations.
Capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft, the 65,000 tonne carrier can also act as a key focus of command for the CSG21 multi-nation task groups and inter-navy training. Its twin island configuration allows the forward island to control and navigate the ship whilst the rear island can control and operate the fast jet and helicopters deployed on board.
Thales’ S1850M radar is located on top of the forward island, providing the ship with critical long range cover and capable of automatic detection and tracking of up to 1000 air targets up to a range of 400km. This allows it to spot golf ball sized objects from 60km away.
The ship’s company numbers 700, increasing to around 1,600 when a full complement of F-35B jets and Merlin helicopters are embarked. Thales will also upgrade HMS Prince of Wales, the second Royal Navy aircraft carrier, with the same communications capabilities.
Winston Mahaffy, managing director of Thales’ naval communications business said that the upgrade takes the carrier’s capability ‘to a whole new level, enabling the carrier as a cutting edge command platform’ for the Royal Navy and other navies.
“Completing the upgrade before CSG21 was a time critical factor, where it will require embarking Battle staff and Commander Task Group who will command the group and others during multi-national exercises from a strategic level,” Mahaffy said in a statement. “But longer term, it allows the carrier to integrate seamlessly and command a task group from the flagship and react accordingly to any future operations.”