Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Thales is to supply Britain's Royal Navy with a new airborne and surveillance capability under a subcontract from Lockheed Martin UK.
The Crowsnest system to be fitted on Merlin MK2 helicopters is a new generation of the Thales Searchwater radar and Cerberus mission system.
The system features touch-screen technology and an autonomous artificial intelligence-based tracking system, improved target identification, the ability to library match airborne contacts, inverse synthetic aperture radar and a fully integrated electronic support measures.
Operators of the Crowsnest system are also able to exploit collected data more effectively through a greatly enhanced mission recording and replay system that allows both real-time and post-mission data reconstruction, Thales said.
The MK2 helicopters will be operated from Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
"The next generation of this battle-proven capability represents a step change in our ability to offer innovative solutions to our customers in maritime airborne surveillance," said Victor Chavez, chief executive officer of Thales in the in Britain. "To see this battle proven capability now transition into the future, to provide critical force protection to the Royal Navy surface fleet, including the UK's new aircraft carriers, is a significant milestone."
Thales said the subcontract formally marks the beginning of the design and manufacture of role-fit equipment for the fleet of Merlin helicopters which will serve the Royal Navy until 2029, replacing Sea King Mark 7 helicopters fitted with an earlier version of the Thales Searchwater and Cerberus systems.
Lockheed Martin is the Ministry of Defense's prime contractor for the Merlin helicopter and was recently awarded a $329 million contract for the airborne surveillance program. It will also integrate the radar onto the Merlins.