Queen Elizabeth Class Carrier Support

Queen Elizabeth Class Carrier Support

Lockheed Martin has a key role in delivering and maintaining capability for the U.K.’s Armed Forces. We are proud to be a part of the U.K.’s most important defence programmes, protecting the nation and boosting the U.K.’s ability to project power around the world.

The F-35 Lightning II and the Merlin Mk2 helicopter-borne surveillance and intelligence provided by CROWSNEST are integral to the U.K.’s Carrier Enabled Power Projection capabilities. 


F-35B Lightning II

The F-35B Lightning II provides unrivalled capability. Its advanced stealth, sensor fusion, exceptional manoeuvrability, unmatched interoperability, and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities mean that the U.K. will have a tactical airpower advantage for decades to come.

The versatility of the F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) to operate not only from land bases and remote locations but also from the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers will revolutionise the U.K.’s expeditionary combat power and have a transformative effect on the U.K.’s ability to defend itself.

The U.K. has been a key part of the F-35 programme from the very beginning. As the only Tier one partner outside the U.S., the U.K. is a valued member of the Joint Strike Fighter team. In 2016, the United States Marine Corps chose the U.K. as the first place outside the U.S. to deploy their F-35Bs when they participated in the Royal International Air Tattoo, demonstrating the importance of the U.K.’s role in this programme.

Currently, the U.K. is taking delivery of an aircraft from Lockheed Martin’s F-35 production line in Fort Worth, Texas, every couple of months.

The U.K.’s aircraft are stationed at two locations in the United States. At Edwards Air Force Base in California, the aircraft are being operated by 17(R) Sqn, and at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, the aircraft are being put through their paces by members of 617 Sqn who are working alongside the Marine Corps as part of a combined unit.

The U.S. Marine Corps' F-35B aircraft reached initial operational capability (IOC) on July 31, 2015, when a squadron of 10 F-35Bs was declared ready for world-wide deployment. The U.K. plans to move 617 Sqn to its home base of RAF Marham in Norfolk in 2018.

Lockheed Martin is working with our partners BAE Systems and Balfour Beatty to build specially designed facilities at RAF Marham to support the fleet when it arrives in the U.K. next year. As well as logistics and maintenance facilities, we are also creating an integrated training centre containing Lockheed Martin simulator technology to provide pilots and ground crew with F-35 training.

To learn more about the U.K.’s F-35, visit F35.com


Merlin Mk2

The Merlin Mk2 helicopter is the Royal Navy’s airborne submarine hunter.

Lockheed Martin was the prime contractor responsible for upgrading 30 of the airframes for the Royal Navy, completing the work ahead of time and under budget. 

Merlin Mk2 crews are now able to operate the helicopter more efficiently and safely, improving the effectiveness of operations. We installed new critical multi-mission capabilities, made improvements to the way the helicopter processes data and provided large touch screen flat panel displays in the cockpits to improve situational awareness.

Since coming into service in 2014, Merlin Mk2s have been deployed from a number of platforms including HMS Ocean, HMS Illustrious, Type 45 destroyers, Type 23 frigates and RFA vessels. Although its primary role is Anti-Submarine Warfare, the Merlin Mk2 is a versatile airframe that is also used to undertake other tasks from troop transport to humanitarian missions across the globe.

The Merlin Mk2 will play a critical role in supporting the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers by providing intelligence, surveillance and tracking. Combined with the CROWSNEST Airborne Early Warning and Control capability, the Merlin Mk2 significantly enhances the U.K.’s maritime operational capability.

Merlin HM Mk2, to this day, retains its reputation as the world’s most potent submarine hunting helicopter.

In addition to the Merlin Prime Contract, Lockheed Martin manages two important support contracts for the Merlin Mk2 Weapon System:


CROWSNEST – Airborne Early Warning and Control

In 2017, Lockheed Martin was awarded a £269m contract to deliver the Royal Navy’s CROWSNEST Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) programme.

As the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin is responsible for the overall design and development of CROWSNEST, which will provide a vital surveillance capability to support the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers.

CROWSNEST uses a high power radar to provide long-range air, maritime and land tracking capabilities that will ensure early detection of potential threats and vital surveillance for the entire fleet.

This capability will be role fitted onto the Merlin Mk2 helicopters and deployed in support of various Royal Navy vessels including the fleet flagships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

CROWSNEST incorporates an updated version of a Thales Searchwater radar and Cerberus Mission System which are deployed as role fit kits along with the Merlin Mk2 helicopters. This will allow the Royal Navy to adjust the configuration of the airframe depending on the mission. We are working with our partners Leonardo Helicopters to design the modifications required to fit CROWSNEST onto the airframes.