UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has accelerated Crowsnest airborne surveillance and control programme, after completing renegotiations of aircraft carrier contract, to ensure it is operational by 2019.
The helicopter-borne early warning systems will be delivered to the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, 18 months ahead than planned, saving an estimated £22m for taxpayers.
Hammond said: "Crowsnest will provide vital surveillance and intelligence to protect the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers."
Fitted aboard the upgraded Merlin Mk2 helicopters, including those to be embarked on the Queen Elizabeth-class warships, the Crowsnest will be an integral part of future carrier operations.
The Crowsnest uses high-power radar to provide long-range air, maritime and land tracking capabilities for the Royal Navy.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, are expected to be delivered to the Royal Navy in 2016 and 2018 respectively.
The Crowsnest programme forms part of the UK MoD’s annual review of ten-year equipment plan.
The £160bn plan also includes unallocated funding to support equipment requirements that may arise as threats emerge or priorities change.
The 280m-long and 74m-wide HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will have a full-load displacement capacity of 65,000t, an operational range of 10,000nm and the capacity to carry 40 aircraft with a total runway area of 13,000m².
Image: Illustration of Merlin helicopters operating aboard Queen Elizabeth-class ship. Photo: copyright Aircraft Carrier Alliance.