AgustaWestland and Thales have joined forces to offer the AW101 Merlin helicopter to the UK Royal Navy for its airborne early warning (AEW) operations.

The new AW101 Merlin equipped with Thales’s Searchwater 2000 radar and Cerberus mission system could replace the navy’s Sea King 7 airborne surveillance and control (ASaC) aircraft and operate from the Queen Elizabeth-class future aircraft carriers.

Currently, the navy is operating a fleet of 11 Sea King ASaC helicopters, which will be decommissioned in 2016, according to

AgustaWestland said the distinctive radar suite of the Searchwater system will be deployed through a rear ramp aperture during operations, providing 360-degree surveillance coverage.

The helicopter features various advanced capabilities including the Cerberus payload, which will be installed on a pallet, and two mission crew stations towards the front of the cabin as well as an integrated Link 16 datalink.