Crowsnest helicopter radar to protect QE carriers

The Crowsnest radar system will be deployed as part of the surveillance package for the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, in a deal worth £269m.

(Credit: Thales)
(Credit: Thales)

Crowsnest, which is an update on Thales’ Cerberus tactical sensor suite, will be fitted to Royal Navy Merlin Mk2 helicopters. It provides 360-degree visibility from the underside of the helicopter, giving airborne surveillance over land and sea, as well as tracking capability.

The deal is also set to sustain over 200 high-skilled jobs in the UK via prime contractor Lockheed Martin (60 jobs at its Havant base), equipment supplier Thales (90 jobs at Crawley) and Merlin manufacturer Leonardo Helicopters (60 jobs in Yeovil).

“Crowsnest will play a key role in protecting the Royal Navy’s future fleet acting as the eyes and ears for the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers,” said Tony Douglas, chief executive of the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support body.

“This contract will also sustain hundreds of UK jobs in the process, highlighting how the MOD, through DE&S, can create a positive and collaborative partnership with industry, benefitting both our Armed Forces and the UK economy.”

Thales’ Cerberus technology is currently deployed on the Royal Navy’s ageing fleet of Sea King helicopters. Merlin Mk2 helicopters equipped with Crowsnest are set to replace this capability. The single mechanically scanned radar head folds up on the side of the aircraft when not in operation, allowing the Merlins to take off and land. Using the two 65,000 tonne QE carriers as base, Crowsnest will part of the armed forces’ Carrier Enabled Power Projection (CEPP), which also includes the new F-35 Lightning II jets.

“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,” said Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin.

“Backed by our rising Defence budget, and our £178 billion equipment plan, Crowsnest will help keep our Armed Forces safe as they deploy in every ocean around the world for decades to come.”