Sharpened Claws for the Royal Navy Wildcat
The FASGW project (led by the Wildcat Delivery Team (WDT) in DE&S) enables the integration of new-to-the-platform weapons on the Royal Navy (RN) Wildcat Helicopter to provide a Force Protection capability to RN deployments. The programme is behind schedule and at the beginning of the year faced the prospect of not delivering the required capability in time to support the vitally important first-deployment of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.
In January the WDT tasked the Air Test and Evaluation Centre (ATEC)** to support the generation and execution of a plan to deliver a capability for the FASGW-enabled Royal Navy (RN) Wildcat helicopter. Through adopting an agile and iterative approach, ATEC established how capability delivery could be expedited and implemented high-frequency delivery-focussed reporting to allow the customer to adjust the delivery plan as necessary. In doing so ATEC has effectively supported the delivery of this critical national capability of Force Protection of the Carrier Strike Group 21. Some highlights of the delivery are as follows:
- 11 sub-system ITE Reports delivered in a dynamic and agile manner, reviewing documentation being changed up until just days prior to report completion.
- 1 Summary Report highlighting the key findings of the integrated ITE to enable the customer to focus its efforts in sentencing the risks associated with operating this capability at the front-line;
- 3 embarked periods at sea to conduct Ship-Air Integration (SAI) Trials Activity;
- 2 Live Firing Trials run by the Maritime & Land team at the Aberporth range.
The SAI trials were conducted by a team of QinetiQ Engineers and Military Test Pilots from the Rotary Wing Test and Evaluation Squadron (RWTES). A large number of ATEC personnel based at Boscombe Down, including trials organisation, enabling, governance and execution, FTI design and installation supported the embarked trials team. As well as conducting the trial in tight timescales, the supporting governance had to be generated and signed off rapidly – taking a matter of weeks as opposed to months for routine tasking. ATEC delivered an Interim report of initial findings just one week after completion of the trials activity, to support customer timelines in obtaining the requisite clearances to operate.
With the support of the Ship’s Captain and Company, 815 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) (who provided the engineering and maintained the aircraft), the WDT, Navy Command HQ and other facets of the MoD and RN; a total of 173 deck landings were conducted by day and night (including the use of night vision devices). Notably, this was not only the first time a FASGW Wildcat HMA Mk2 aircraft had been operated at sea, but was also the first operation in the night environment.
As with everything QinetiQ has achieved in the last 18 months, this was all done against the backdrop of COVID-19, meaning complex logistical challenges faced the team embarking on an RN ship; all project communications were conducted remotely; and people were already facing difficult personal situations. This was third embarked trial completed by ATEC under COVID-19 conditions.
The ATEC team worked collaboratively and with a customer-focussed approach from the moment the challenge was laid down, and for that ATEC has received accolades from across the customer community. A huge ThankQ must go to the entire team involved, both core ITE and SAI, with too many names to list. We must also extend a ThankQ to those outside ATEC, in both the DO (Leonardo UK) and MOD who provided help to enable this endeavour succeed.
For further information on the project and what it has achieved so far please contact Elliott Biglin (PM) or Pete Burgess (PE).
**QinetiQ and the Air and Space Warfare Centre (ASWC) conduct military aircraft test and evaluation activities under the MOD-QinetiQ Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA). This element of the LTPA, which includes the approved framework for operating UK military-registered aircraft and the Government aerodrome at Boscombe Down, is referred to as the Air Test and Evaluation Centre (ATEC).
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