QinetiQ has successfully completed the integration of a beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) satellite communications system into each of the RAF’s fleet of 22 Mk3 Merlins in preparation for their possible deployment to Afghanistan. The work, valued at just over £1 Million, covers manufacturing the modification kits, fleet embodiment and one year theatre support.
The contract followed QinetiQ’s successful integration of a satellite communications system onto a number of MOD Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) assets, as part of an in-theatre Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) programme that commenced back in the Spring of 2007. The original BLOS programme took QinetiQ just 12 weeks to evaluate, develop and deliver an initial solution that integrated various commercial-of-the-shelf components with bespoke elements and was flight certified so that it could operate on various JHC deployed assets. With the addition of a number of ground stations, the BLOS solution provided simple and efficient end-to-end voice communications capabilities for various rotary aircraft types with operational headquarters.
The installation programme on the Merlins was undertaken and completed by a dedicated team of five QinetiQ employees, normally working over weekends when aircraft became free, and was delivered at a number of RAF bases across the UK so as not to disrupt operations. Notice of aircraft availability ranged from seven days to just 48 hour and the last aircraft was embodied at RAF Benson in October 2009. In addition to developing and manufacturing the new beyond line-of-site modification kits for all 22 Mk3 Merlins in the fleet, QinetiQ will also provide ongoing product development and repair support to theatre.
“Communications are challenging in the exceptionally high, mountainous and remote parts of Afghanistan and this solution is a theatre entry requirement that continues to deliver vital capability to the front-line user community,” explained Alan Woolford, managing director for QinetiQ’s Systems Evaluation Services based at MOD Boscombe Down. “The programme was again accomplished in an exceptionally professional way thanks to the commitment of all staff and the streamlined and cooperative approach of stakeholders.”
“The addition of BLOS on the Merlin fleet is a vital part of our ability to both provide aircraft and effectively operate them in-theatre,” added Captain Tim Davies, Royal Navy, JHC Assistant Director Operational Support. “Without doubt, this has been one of the best advances for some time in helping us to get the job done.”