The AEW, with its state-of-the-art surveillance capability, is fitted as part of the Cerberus mission system in the British navy's Sea King Mk7s deployed in Afghanistan.
During recent operations, Sea King crews have described the radar as "unique" and both British and coalition partners have stated that it is a "key contributory factor" in protecting civilians and military personnel from the insurgents, providing the essential "eyes" for the land force commander, the company said.
Use of the Searchwater radar over land demonstrates the inherent flexibility of the system that was originally designed to provide airborne force protection for British navy task groups at sea.
Operating out of Camp Bastion in Helmand province, the Sea King crews are tasked with land surveillance, supporting ground troops and collecting invaluable data.
Speaking of the ongoing tempo of current operations, Cmdr. Pat Douglas, Sea King Force commander, was quoted as saying, "Having now been operating in Afghanistan for two years, the Mark 7 Sea King has become central to the ongoing fight against the insurgents."
Thales has been involved in providing the British navy's rotary wing AEW capability since the early 1980s when a force protection capability gap was graphically identified during the 1982 Falklands War, when a number of surface ships were sunk by enemy aircraft.
The Sea King AEW Mk2 was rushed into service to fill this gap carrying a modified Searchwater radar transferred from the British air force's Nimrod MR aircraft.
After winning the contract for a system mid-life update in 1997, Thales delivered an upgraded and enhanced Searchwater 2000 AEW radar as part of the Cerberus mission system.
The upgraded aircraft was re-designated the Sea King Mk7.
As well as the Searchwater radar, Cerberus is also a fully integrated Link 16 data link, integrated automatic identification system, secure communications and inertial navigation/Global Positioning System navigation to provide a comprehensive airborne surveillance and control capability.
Further enhancements to the Cerberus mission system have allowed the British navy to develop the aircraft's overland capability such that it can now make a significant contribution to intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance in the land battle while retaining ASaC and maritime force protection capabilities.
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