According to Defense-Aerospace.com, Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the Royal Navy’s Crowsnest airborne early warning variant of the AW101 Merlin helicopter, has provided some information about the program, which made its maiden flight on March 28.
Crowsnest, the Lockheed Martin-led programme which will provide the Royal Navy with its Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) platform via a role fit Mission System solution onto the Merlin Mk2, achieved a key milestone on 28 March.
The designated trials aircraft took off from the Leonardo Helicopters facility in Yeovil, at midday, to commence Aero-Mechanical flight trials. This milestone is key to assessing the flight envelope and handling qualities of the aircraft with the external role equipment fitted, and marks the start of a series of flight trials which will take place throughout 2019.
In fact, the aircraft had actually made its first flight several days earlier, and had made several before the official one on March 28. This was still three days earlier than the contractual deadline for first flight, which was March 31.
Lockheed Martin worked closely with industry partners and Ministry of Defence (MOD) to ensure that essential design requirements were met prior to first flight on 28 March 2019. The first flight enables an extended flight test period to expand the flight envelope of the helicopter with the CROWSNEST role equipment installed.
The next key phase of the programme is Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) testing.
Lockheed Martin is committed to delivering the CROWSNEST capability with its industry partners; dedicated management teams and resources are in place to ensure the programme is delivered successfully.
The next program milestone, set for September 30, is the conclusion of Flight Trial Activity required to support initial Aircrew Training, according to the SRO letter, with aircrew training due to begin by October 10 and the delivery of the Airborne Surveillance & Control Mission Trainer by November 14.