Lockheed Martin has named Aerosystems International as part of its bid team to contest the UK’s Project Helix upgrade, which seeks to expand the capabilities of the Royal Air Force’s BAE Systems Nimrod R1 electronic intelligence aircraft.

Aerosystems will provide human-factors integration and other engineering services under the agreement, says Lockheed, which is contesting the projected £400 million ($730 million) requirement with L-3 Communications.

The programme seeks to replace the Nimrod R1’s current mission systems with an open-architecture design that can support the UK’s network-enabled operations via incremental upgrades.

Lockheed intends to perform the upgrade in the UK if it secures systems integrator status for Project Helix, says Bill Landis, vice-president strategic development for Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems and Solutions.

Although Helix capabilities could be transitioned onto other airframes – potentially including BAE’s new-generation Nimrod MRA4 – the programme’s baseline requirement is to extend the capabilities of the RAF’s three-strong Nimrod R1 fleet, says the company.

One contractor will be chosen in October 2006 to advance to a risk-reduction phase, with a contract awarded the following year and aircraft integration work to start in 2007-8.

Project Helix will support the UK’s future network-enabled operations and augment intelligence assets such as the Raytheon Systems Sentinel R1 airborne stand-off radar and Boeing E-3D Sentry airborne early warning aircraft and the Thales UK/Elbit Systems Watchkeeper unmanned air vehicle system.

Source: Flight International