The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin to design develop and demonstrate the Crowsnest airborne command and control system for the UK Royal Navy.
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.