New £1.5bn defence deal to upgrade military air traffic control tech secures 150 jobs in Whiteley

DOZENS of ‘highly-skilled’ jobs have been protected in Whiteley thanks to a major £1.5bn contract to develop a state-of-the-art military air traffic control system.

By Tom Cotterill
Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 2:55 pm

Some 300 roles at Aquila Air Traffic Management System have been secured – including 150 roles at its Whiteley base – thanks to the deal.

Aquila has been developing the cutting-edge technology since 2014, after it was awarded the contract by the Ministry of Defence.

Now, after years of work, it is finally operational with RAF Shawbury this week becoming the first air base to receive the hi-tech system.

An RAF air traffic controller is supported on the news system by a specialist from Whiteley-based tech firm Aquila Air Traffic Management Syste

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The new system is designed to improve safety of military flying operations, by integrating the latest technology and equipment into the existing infrastructure.

Variations of the kit will be rolled out across more than 60 MoD sites in the UK and overseas by 2024, including Cyprus, Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands.

The new equipment allows controllers improved situational awareness through upgraded radar and computer systems.

Maintainers pictured near one of the air traffic control radar installations they have been tasked to keep up and running.

Jeremy Quin, defence procurement minister, said: ‘Ensuring our drones, fighter jets, helicopters and cargo aircraft operate safely and efficiently is critical to maintaining our capabilities and supporting our service personnel.

‘This state-of-the-art system is another example of how we are putting innovation at the forefront of everything we do.’

The £1.5bn programme, known as Marshall, provides improved reliability, quality of service and cost savings by using Aquila engineering teams to maintain the equipment.

The programme is expected to save the UK taxpayer up to £317m across the next 22 years.

The announcement has been welcomed by Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, who said: ‘This is absolutely excellent news. These are high-paid, highly-skilled jobs.’

Michael Stoller, chief executive of Aquila hailed the development of the programme a ‘major milestone’.

‘This new technology will transform air traffic management for our military in the UK and overseas and enable our customer to realise significant operational and cost saving benefits,’ he said.

The air traffic system includes a £400m investment in advanced surveillance radars and a wide range of sophisticated equipment such as tower systems, new surveillance and navigation aids and radios.

Sir Simon Bollom, chief executive of DE&S, the procurement arm of the Ministry of Defence, said: ‘This is a key milestone in a programme that is vital to front-line capability. It is an excellent example of collaboration between DE&S, the RAF and industry to provide the armed forces with the technology to do their job safely and effectively.’

Aquila is a joint venture between NATS, international air traffic control services provider, and French-based defence firm Thales.

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