The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), is completing the technical evaluation of bids from GEC-Marconi Avionics (GMAv) Racal Electronics and Lockheed Martin, for the £100 million ($150 million) upgrade, of the Royal Navy's fleet of Westland Sea King airborne-early-warning AEW2 helicopters ahead of a final decision, which is expected in the middle of the year.

The mission-systems upgrade will initially cover the Navy's existing ten aircraft, with options on a further two batches of three for a possible total of 16. The work will provide a long-range air-to-air detection capability, an improved man-machine interface and a joint tactical information-distribution system datalink.

GMAv's bid is based around a more-powerful derivative of the Blue Vixen radar used in the Navy's British Aerospace Sea Harrier F/A2, says Joey Gough, marketing manager at GMAv's Radar Systems division. Gough says that the bid "...maximises the use of existing hardware and software", is designed to offer commonality benefits in areas such as training and test equipment, and makes use of "commercial, off-the-shelf, equipment".

Lockheed Martin Aircraft Services is teamed with Westland Helicopters and Hughes Aircraft, and is believed to have offered a solution based on the Hughes APG-63U radar, earlier versions of which are used in McDonnell Douglas F-15s and US Customs Service Lockheed Martin P-3As.

Racal-Thorn Defence is proposing to update the existing hardware, and is offering its Searchwater 2000 radar. As this radar is also being pitched for the UK's replacement maritime-patrol aircraft requirement, the MoD could "...standardise on a maritime radar, resulting in significant cost savings", claims Racal.

Source: Flight International