Minister visits Portsmouth to announce £269m defence deal

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A £269M deal will see a local firm kit-out helicopters that will be the eyes and ears of the navy’s new aircraft carriers.

Defence minister Harriet Baldwin today announced a the major contract for Lockheed Martin to manufacture cutting-edge surveillance kit for helicopters on HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.

A Merlin helicopter leaving HMS Ocean

A Merlin helicopter leaving HMS Ocean

Both 65,000-tonne carries will be in Portsmouth, and the contract means 60 jobs in Havant will be kept.

Lockheed, the defence industry giant, will create the Crowsnest system, set to be installed in Merlin Mk2 helicopters that guard the fleet.

Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond said: ‘This is a very welcome investment in the area and shows how it’s become a centre of excellence for maritime engineering and for the defence industry.

‘This is all part of the preparation for the aircraft carriers. I know we’re all really looking forward to that.’

Havant council leader Michael Cheshire said it was an ‘endorsement for Havant’, which lost hundreds of jobs last year. He said: ‘It’s absolutely fantastic news that we can do our bit for the defence of the nation.’

The system will provide long-range air, marine and land detection and tracking.

Harriett Baldwin, minister for defence procurement, who visited Portsmouth Naval Base today to make the announcement, said: ‘Crowsnest will provide a vital intelligence, surveillance and tracking system for our new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, capable of detecting any potential threats at sea.

‘Backed by our rising defence budget, and our £178bn equipment plan, Crowsnest will help keep our armed forces safe as they deploy in every ocean around the world for decades to come.’

The Ministry of Defence said the system is ‘an important step in the ambitious carrier’ programme.

The UK’s F-35 Lightning II planes are set to fly from the aircraft carriers, when they are purchased by the navy.

Lockheed has subcontracted Thales UK to carry out some of the work in Crawley and Yeovil.

Tony Douglas, chief executive officer of the MoD’s defence equipment and support body, said: ‘This state-of-the-art project will demonstrate how we are providing world-leading, innovative equipment to our armed forces.’

It comes as major work has been carried out to the dockyard to accommodate the aircraft carriers.

This includes:

n Reinforcing 276 metres of jetty with more than 3,300 tonnes of steel work.

n New navigation lights in the harbour and Solent.

n New fenders and gangways for the ships.

n Dredging of three million cubic metres of clay, sand and gravel.