Defence group Qinetiq has completed the integration of a beyond-line-of-sight satellite (BLOS) communications system into the RAF’s fleet of 22 Mk3 Merlin helicopters.
The work, which is valued at more than £1m, includes manufacturing of the modification kits, fleet embodiment and one-year theatre support in preparation for the fleet’s possible deployment to Afghanistan.
‘Communications are challenging in the very high mountainous and remote parts of Afghanistan and this solution is a theatre entry requirement that continues to deliver vital capability to the front-line user community,’ said Alan Woolford, managing director for Qinetiq’s Systems Evaluation Services based at MoD Boscombe Down.
‘The programme was again accomplished in an exceptionally professional way thanks to the commitment of all staff and the streamlined and cooperative approach of stakeholders.’
Captain Tim Davies of the Royal Navy and the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) assistant director operational support added: ‘The addition of BLOS on the Merlin fleet is a vital part of our ability to both provide aircraft and effectively operate them in theatre. Without doubt, this has been one of the best advances for some time in helping us to get the job done.’
The contract follows Qinetiq’s successful integration of a satellite communications system on a number of MoD JHC assets, as part of an in-theatre Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) programme.
The original programme took 12 weeks to deliver and allowed the selected JHC deployed assets to offer end-to-end voice communications capabilities for various rotary aircraft types with operational headquarters.