Maiden flight for Crowsnest – the Royal Navy’s eye in the sky

The regeneration of RN carrier strike capability took another small step forward on 28th March when a Merlin HM2 fitted with the Crowsnest Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) system completed the first test flight from Yeovil Aerodrome. Here we examine progress on the Crowsnest project.

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Crowsnest Merlin Helicopter Aircraft Carriers

Crowsnest – the strike carrier’s eye in the sky

Crowsnest is the name for the project to provide a new airborne early warning system for the RN. Sea King Mk 7 helicopters operated by 849 Naval Air Squadron currently operate in this role and provide what is now called Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC). They are the last Sea Kings remaining active in UK service but are due to go in 2018, by which time this type will have served for nearly 50 years.

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Royal Navy Merlin Helicopter on flight deck of HMS Sutherland

The Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopter fleet – bearing a heavy load

Glossy MoD publicity may give the impression the Fleet Air Arm is in rude health with several new types of aircraft coming into service to replace ageing veterans. A new generation of aircraft are indeed being delivered but the actual number of helicopters in RN service will have declined dramatically by 57% (From 194 to 83) in the decade between 2009 and 2019.

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