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The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded BAE Systems a 10-year contract to support, upgrade, and maintain critical radar systems operated by the Royal Navy (RN), the ministry announced in a press release on 9 June 2023.

The contract, which is worth GBP 270 M (EUR 314.77 M), covers the Artisan, Sampson and ‘Long-Range Radars’ found on the RN’s Type 23 and Type 26 frigates, Type 45 destroyers, and two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, the MoD noted.

The Type 997 Artisan is a BAE Systems-produced, medium-range air and surface surveillance 3D phased-array radar found on RN Type 23 frigates and due to be installed on the RN’s future fleet of Type 26 frigates.

The Sampson radar, also produced by BAE Systems, is the primary surveillance and dedicated tracking sensor used on the RN’s Type 45 destroyers.

The “Long-Range Radars” mentioned in the MoD release are the S1850M long-range air and surface search radars found on the RN’s Type 45 destroyers and Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. Manufactured by BAE Systems and Thales, these are modified versions of the Thales Nederland SMART-L long-range naval search radar and are a key component of the ships’ Principal Anti Air Missile System.

According to the MoD release, this contract secures “400 highly skilled jobs in Cowes, Portsmouth, Essex and in Hillend near Edinburgh”. As well as covering upgrading existing radars along with maintenance and other in-service support, the radar work also “ensures the UK retains the highly specialist skills required for a sovereign option in future radar development”, the MoD noted.

“This is a pivotal moment for UK radar technology development,” Scott Jamieson, Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Maritime Services business, was quoted as saying. “This contract secures a decade of investment into a critical capability for the UK armed forces. It also allows us to evolve future radar technology with the MoD to sustain maritime air dominance and vital radar development skills and experience in the UK.”

The Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke returning to sea in June 2013 after becoming the first RN ship to be fitted with an Artisan 3D radar. (Photo: Crown Copyright)

Rear Admiral James Parkin, the RN’s Director of Development, was quoted as saying, “By combining the support of our existing maritime complex radars, the Royal Navy will be better able to adapt to technological change and our ships will be able to respond faster to developing operational threats. This system of systems approach being taken by BAE Systems aligns with our own approach to sensor development and will maintain our status as one of the world’s leading maritime forces.”

A BAE Systems press release also issued on 9 June noted that the MoD and BAE Systems “are jointly investing a further GBP 50 million to develop the next generation of radar technology, which the Royal Navy requires to tackle emerging threats, including ballistic missiles and drones. The MoD will contribute GBP 37.5 million and BAE Systems will invest GBP 12.5 million into research and development. This commitment is designed to ensure that British naval radar technology remains a global market leader.”

Peter Felstead