The second of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s new Tide-class support ships, RFA Tiderace, has arrived in Cornwall to begin a programme of customisation that will support 300 UK jobs. Like her sister ship RFA Tidespring, which arrived in April this year, the 39,000-tonne RFA Tiderace can carry up to 19,000 cubic metres of fuel and 1,400 cubic metres of fresh water in support of Royal Navy operations all over the world. She has been designed to support the new Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers, the first of which, HMS Queen Elizabeth, arrived in Portsmouth last month. Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said: This year of the Royal Navy goes from strength to strength as we welcome yet another new ship into the UK’s growing fleet.
The £807m upgrade of the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 helicopters is nearing completion with the fleet being declared fully operational by the Ministry of Defence (MOD
Lockheed Martin UK has now delivered 24 of the 30 airframes that were to be upgraded as part of the Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme and the programme has been delivered ahead of time and on budget.
The Merlin Mk2 helicopters, which are based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall, have been fitted with glass cockpits, an upgraded mission system that includes touch screen flat panel displays, tactical computers and digital maps and an improved radar and sonar system.
Lockheed Martin UK delivered the first five of the upgraded helicopters to the Royal Navy ahead of schedule in 2013, which meant they were able to enter service four months earlier than planned in summer 2014.
A number of the helicopters played a key role in Sierra Leone delivering vital support to the UK effort to tackle the spread of Ebola. More recently the Merlin Mk2 has supported operations to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean.
The announcement that the fleet is now fully operational means that the Merlin Mk2s are able to support Royal Navy frigates, destroyers and eventually the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers on operations around the world.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne said: “The considerable investment the UK Government has made in these next-generation Merlin helicopters will ensure that we continue to deliver a flexible capability that meets the needs of our Armed Forces. This programme forms part of this Government’s commitment to invest £11 billion in our helicopter fleet over the next 10 years as part of our £160 billion Equipment Plan to provide our people with the very best equipment and support.”
Bob Kramer, Vice President Lockheed Martin UK’s Integrated Systems based in Havant said, “The achievement of full operating capability has been a real team effort and we continue to work closely with our suppliers, MOD and Royal Navy to provide these upgraded helicopters to support maritime operations across the globe.”
As well as delivering the Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme, Lockheed Martin UK has also been involved in providing additional enhancements to the fleet in a separate £60million contract. Working with AgustaWestland, engineers have been fitting a Defensive Aids Suite, ballistic protection and infra-red cameras that allow pilots to download video to give them greater situational awareness. This work is also on track to be completed on time in October 2015.
About Lockheed Martin UK
Lockheed Martin UK, headquartered in London, is the UK-based arm of Lockheed Martin Corporation, a global security and aerospace company. Lockheed Martin UK specialises in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. Lockheed Martin UK employs more than 3,000 people across 21 UK sites, working on a wide range of major programmes spanning the aerospace, defence and civil sectors.