FEARS have been raised that a new state-of-the-art radar system being fitted to the Royal Navy’s future flagship could leave the force vulnerable to attack.
The cutting-edge 3D radar system, known as Advanced Radar Target Indication Situational Awareness and Navigation – or Artisan for short – has been installed on the navy’s latest aircraft carrier, the £3bn HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The hi-tech piece of kit is meant to be capable of detecting objects as small as a tennis ball travelling three times the speed of sound from more than 15 miles away.
But The News can exclusively reveal that concerns have been raised about the system, which is also used on the fleet’s Type 23 frigates.
A leading weapons and radar systems engineering consultant, with 14 years’ experience, claimed Artisan was having a number of teething problems.
The defence source said the new system, designed and developed by BAE Systems, was not working as effectively as its predecessor and was potentially leaving the fleet vulnerable to attack.
‘It just doesn’t want to work. They are trying to do software patches to do what they want it to do,’ the source claimed.
He added: ‘Our ships could be destroyed. As much as it’s got sensors, if it’s struggling to track and identify targets and harpoon missiles, a Russian frigate, for example, could destroy it.’
A spokesman for the Royal Navy said there was always the chance of teething problems arising when new kit was installed.
However, he added the navy was confident the new system would be fully operational soon and that there was no concern about it.
A statement said: ‘Artisan is proving a highly capable radar, providing significantly greater track detection ranges than its predecessor against more complex and demanding threats.
‘Trials analysis and assessment is on-going, which will confirm all aspects of the performance are met.’
BAE Systems designed and developed Artisan at its sites in Cowes, Chelmsford and Portsmouth.
Earlier this month, the new defence tech was fitted to Queen Elizabeth, which will be based in the city once she is completed.
However, BAE refused to comment about reports of the radar’s teething problems that had been ‘raised by anonymous sources’, a spokeswoman said.
But Portsmouth City Council’s leader Donna Jones claimed she was not worried by the revelations.
‘We have one of the strongest military capabilities in the world and certainly in Europe,’ she said.
‘While I understand there are concerns with the radar capability, I have absolute confidence that the Ministry of Defence will have this sorted out.’
She added she was certain that no ships would be deployed by the navy until they were ‘safe and fit for service’.
The system is currently fitted on two of Portsmouth’s Type 23s, HMS Iron Duke and HMS Westminster, BAE confirmed.
Artisan is also operating on other frigates including HMS Somerset, HMS Argyll, HMS Northumberland, HMS Sutherland and HMS Monmouth as well as the UK’s only landing platform helicopter attack ship, HMS Ocean.
All these ships are based at HMNB Devonport, the naval base in Plymouth.
The technology is also due to be installed on the navy’s newest warship, the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, which is currently under development.
The navy hopes to construct a total of 13 Type 26s, which will include both anti-submarine warfare and general purpose variants.
They are expected to enter service after 2020, with an operational life span of almost 30 years.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, however, is expected to begin operating in the next couple of years.
It is anticipated that the ship’s company will board in May 2016, with sea trials planned in August 2016 before the supercarrier moves to Portsmouth in 2017.
Responding to the claims, an MoD spokeswoman said: ‘We’re very clear that this is an effective system that has been proven on the Type 23.’
She said the radar system would provide the next generation of defence capabilities for the new Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers, adding: ‘We’re putting the best kit on all our carriers.’