Raytheon wins RAF Shadow Support and Sustainment Contract
It is always a delight to extol the many virtues and importance of Raytheon UK in terms of skills and benefits to the economy so I am particularly delighted this morning to learn that Raytheon UK has today signed a £250 million contract with the Ministry of Defence to provide 11 years of support and sustainment services to the Royal Air Force Shadow R1 aircraft fleet.
The MOD contract award to Raytheon supports Shadow R1 aircraft maintenance, airworthiness management, design organisation and supply chain support. Work will be planned to start in April 2019 and some 200 full-time jobs will be secured at the Raytheon highly invested Raytheon intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance hub in North Wales with an additional 250 jobs will sustained within the UK supply chain.
Supporting aircraft modification design and integration work, the contract also serves as an enabling agreement to upgrade aircraft to the Mk 2 standard. The Shadow R1 award builds on the already considerable record of success that Raytheon has achieved in supporting the RAF fleet of Sentinel R1 long range, wide area battlefield surveillance aircraft. To that end Raytheon has created a world leading hub for advanced ISR platforms at Broughton in North Wales.
Having entered service with the Royal Air Force in 2009, Shadow R1 is an intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft that was developed by Raytheon and is currently in operation with 14 Squadron based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. Based on the Beechcraft King Air 350CER twin-turboprop aircraft, Shadow R1 has been modified to perform the manned tactical aerial surveillance duties for the UK Special Forces. The contract will result in more air support services being embedded at RAF Waddington and the award once again highlights the UK’s record of success as a centre of excellence for air support.
For the record, along with facilities at Broughton, North Wales and RAF Waddington, Raytheon UK has operations in Glenrothes in Scotland, Harlow in Essex, Gloucester and Manchester. Continually investing and developing a range of defence technology in the UK, Raytheon UK employs around 1,700 highly skilled personnel and supports an estimated 8,000 jobs in total. As a prime contractor and major supplier to the U.K. Ministry of Defence, Raytheon UK invests heavily in research & development and also in supporting innovation and technological advances across the nation. In 2017 the company generated more than £700m for UK GDP and £461 million in sales.
Gatwick – For Army read RAF Regiment and for Rafael read Leonardo!
Headlines on a BBC News Website report this morning [Gatwick drones: Military capability withdrawn from airport] are interesting just as they are perfectly fair enough but on deeper reading of the article I began to become concerned. Why? The first matter of concern came within the second sentence which reported that ‘The Army was deployed as hundreds of flights were cancelled on the 20th of December following repeated drone sightings’. Really? Sorry, not the Army in this particular case and I am pretty sure that on examination it will be found to have been the RAF Regiment rather than the Army that was deployed to Gatwick with specialist equipment that could assist identifying and tracking of drones.
That brings me neatly to the second point of concern as that otherwise well written article went on to say that “it is believed that the Israeli-developed Drone Dome systems which can jam communications between the drone and its operator had been brought in. Wrong again I am afraid as my understanding is that the equipment that was actually deployed to Gatwick was that of a UK-capability based system, in large part supplied by Leonardo, real British designed, developed and manufactured technology that had been built at Leonardo’s Basildon and Southampton plants here in the UK.
Whilst it is perfectly true that the Ministry of Defence, in its infinite wisdom, chose last August under what I believe was an Urgent Operational Requirement basis to order six counter – unmanned aircraft systems from the Israeli based company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (this a Drone Dome anti-drone system planned to be used to protect sensitive facilities and other sites) it was a highly sophisticated proven in service Leonardo built equipment capability that the RAF regiment deployed to Gatwick.
The London Gatwick airport incident which saw all flights into and out of the airport delayed or cancelled over a 30 hour period has highlighted the urgency of need for airports and other important locations and events to have the ability to track, identify and if possible, destroy unidentified drones entering zones or areas such as airports where they are banned from being operated.
While it is quite possible that some of the equipment ordered by the MOD from Rafael has arrived in the UK my sense is that even if this is so it has not yet reached the status of being regarded as operational capability. To the best of my knowledge no training on the equipment has yet taken place.
Whilst I do not wish to get involved in why the MOD chose to select Rafael as opposed to Leonardo or indeed, others who competed this contract it is I believe well worth making the point that the UK has a long and very important record of success in relation to thermal imaging technology for the military.
Leonardo’s infra-red detectors and thermal imaging sensors such as Horizon (Medium Wave Infra-Red MWIR) which employs the latest focal plane array technology to meet long-range surveillance and target identification technology and which is as far as I am aware the equipment used by the RAF regiment at Gatwick are manufactured at the company’s Southampton and Basildon sites. I cannot emphasise enough that this is UK designed, developed and built technology and that this is just part of Leonardo’s continued investment in innovation here in the UK on a wide range of equipment including IR-detecting semi-conductor materials that produce high-definition focal plane arrays, advanced electronics or high-performance lens assemblies that provide extended identification ranges in harsh operational environments, ensures that the UK is at the forefront of this hugely important industry.
I will be returning to the subject drone detection, identification and destruction in due course!
CHW (London – 3rd January 2019)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785