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Royal Navy gets £100m electronic warfare boost

Contract will see new technology deployed to bolster the UK's radar detection capabilities for the Royal Navy

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a £100m contract through Defence Equipment and Support (DES) to deliver electronic warfare to the Royal Navy.

Under the Babcock-led partnership with Elbit Systems UK and QinetiQ, the electronic warfare (EW) systems will aim to improve the simultaneous detection and identification of radar signals over a greater frequency range than current capabilities.

According to DE&S, the technology is expected to enable faster operational decision-making, enhanced situational awareness and anti-ship missile defence capability.

“In a world of rapidly evolving threats, these enhancements will upgrade the Royal Navy with pioneering radar detection capabilities maintaining the UK’s operational advantage at sea,” said defence secretary Ben Wallace.

Babcock, Elbit and QinetiQ will work alongside DE&S, the Royal Navy and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (Dstl) as a single team to design, manufacture, deliver and integrate the EW capability. The deal also includes in-service support provided by the suppliers for the duration of the contract.

The 13-year contract is also expected to drive job creation, mostly in the South West of England, with 170 jobs created, from software development to manufacturing roles.

The increment to maritime electronic warfare systems is the first phase of a £500m program to further equip frigates and aircraft carriers.

Evolving and exploiting the “increasingly complex electro-magnetic environment is critical for the operational success of the Royal Navy”, according to Royal Navy commodore Steve Prest, the senior responsible owner for the programme.

“This technology will deliver a generational leap in our electronic warfare capabilities to ensure we maintain the operational advantage we need well into the 21st century,” he added.

The deal is part of a UK government move to strengthen maritime capabilities and to drive innovation in readiness for new and emerging threats. This strategy is underpinned by plans to boost defence spending by £24bn over the next four years.

Also during that period, the Ministry of Defence plans to make more progress with a strategy where data will be taking centre stage in decision-making and efficiency improvements. According to the MoD, the objective is to ensure data is treated as a “strategic asset, second only to people”.

“Every decision we make is increasingly data-driven – from multibillion-pound investment and divestment choices, to life-or-death situations handled in a split second on the battlefield, to defending against the increasing volume of cyber threats,” the MoD said in a report published in September 2021.

Under the plan, the idea is to promote national and international integration across the domains of maritime, land, air, cyber and space, enabling the MoD to take advantage of the power of its data.

Specifically on maritime technology, the UK has been investigating possibilities around advancing in that field. Research carried out by Maritime Research and Innovation UK for the Department for Transport published in November 2021 outlined opportunities and recommendations for the industry in areas such as autonomous systems and artificial intelligence.

According to the research, there are several opportunities that can be pursued in maritime technology and interventions that can be made. This relates to the government’s transformation ambitions for the maritime sector in the next 30 years, which include themes such as boosting port connectivity and tackling cyber security threats.

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