MORE jobs could be on the horizon for one of the area’s biggest defence firms after a £269m deal was unveiled.
Yesterday defence procurement minister Harriet Baldwin announced the major contract for Lockheed Martin to build cutting-edge surveillance kit for helicopters on HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
The company will create the Crowsnest system, set to be installed on the Merlin Mk2 helicopters by 2018.
It is a move that has already secured 60 jobs at Lockheed’s integrated systems HQ at Havant’s Langstone Technology Park.
But the technology giant’s newly-appointed vice-president and group manager, Paul Livingston, said the deal could act as a springboard for future expansion.
He said: ‘‘My principle aim is to grow the business – that is my thrust, to take this business forward.
‘It’s always good to build upon a foundation and Merlin has been a foundational programme for this business for over 25 years.
‘I would like to grow the business and that will need more people to deliver it.
‘So, absolutely, jobs could be on the cards.’
The deal was revealed on board Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon. A total of 10 of the new Crowsnest surveillance systems will be built over the coming years.
They are due to replace the ageing Sea King early warning detection system.
The new hi-tech sensor domes can be fitted on to any Merlin Mk 2 in eight hours and will allow naval commanders to get a 360-degree view around their fleet for hundreds of miles.
It’s a move that has been welcomed by military top brass, who said it would give the navy more flexibility, allowing helicopters to conduct anti-submarine operations or tackle long-range tracking.
Air Vice Marshal Graham Russell said the new tech sent ‘a statement’ that the country was ‘back in business’.
While Commander Steve Lynch, the navy’s chief of staff for aviation, said: ‘This system is critical. It is the only thing that can see over the horizon.’
Mrs Baldwin added: ‘Crowsnest will be the eyes and ears of our carrier groups, providing vital intelligence, surveillance and tracking capability.’