MoD sets sights on ‘over horizon’ radar for Navy

The Royal Navy’s future aircraft carriers could be equipped with a new surveillance radar capable of seeing beyond the vessels’ horizon.

BAE Systems and US defence contractor Northrop Grumman have been awarded the contract for the concept phase study for the Future Organic Airborne Early Warning programme.

FOAEW will be a key element in a new package of equipment to be procured for the navy in the first half of the 21st century. The contract to build the end system could be worth billions of pounds.

Bob Catterson, BAE Systems’ programme manager and chief systems engineer said: ‘This system will give the Royal Navy a capability that will replace the Sea King helicopter.’

Prime contractor BAE Systems will manage the team from Filton, near Bristol. Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems Sector, Airborne Early Warning and Electronic Warfare Systems businesses will serve as the principal sub-contractors.

The nine-month study will explore mission system concepts, particularly surveillance radar, and the installation and integration of the system onto ships and aircraft.The navy wants to retain the capability of its aircraft to act as the eyes of the fleet.

The new radar will not operate from the Joint Strike Fighter naval variant expected to fly from the future carriers, but could be built into the GKN Westland/Agusta Merlin EH-101 helicopter and/or Bell Helicopter’s V22-Osprey.

The system has been classed as ‘organic’ because it will be part of the overall ‘future aircraft carrier’ programme.

While the main sensor will be radar, other sensors could eventually be employed, depending on results of the concept study.

The first phase of this study will be completed in December, though concept work is scheduled to continue until March 2003.