Confirmation that over the next five years the fleet of Royal Navy Type 23 frigates, Hunt and Sandown class Mine Counter Measure Vessels, Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, fast patrol boats together with Astute, Trafalgar and Vanguard class submarines are to be fitted with new navigational equipment including SharpEye™ radar transceivers designed and developed by the Enfield, London based navigation, surveillance and security radar systems manufacturer Kelvin Hughes is not only excellent news for the Royal Navy but yet another example of success by a small yet highly invested UK company engaged in specialist maritime electronics based technology.
In total more than 60 ships, submarines and shore based Royal Navy facilities will be equipped with the new state-of-the-art digital radar systems. Not only will these raise the bar of navigational protection for Royal Navy surface and sub-surface capability it will set the standard for future radar based systems requirement.
With the primary £44 million navigation radar contract awarded to Havant, Hampshire based Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems by the MOD in January 2016 and the order to supply 60+ SharpEye™ radars now awarded to Kelvin Hughes it is excellent news that over the next five years the new capability will be rolled out across the majority of Royal Navy vessels. What the Royal Navy is getting is brilliant new generation of digital radar systems. In addition to ships and submarines, a total of five shore based facilities will also benefit from the new radar and the Kelvin Hughes SharpEye™ technology. Added together the capability will provide a wide range of navigation requirement that includes the already well proven highly reliable safe collision avoidance system.
Land based units included in the plan and that are primarily used for Royal Navy training include HMS Collingwood, in Hampshire, HMS Raleigh, in Cornwall, and at the Land Based Test Site at Portsdown Technology Park in Hampshire.
Importantly, the contract from the MOD to Lockheed Martin includes options for the introduction of navigation radar systems for future Royal Navy platforms such as the two Queen Elizabeth carriers, the Type 26 Global Combat Ship and Successor submarines and other planned vessel developments.
SharpEye™ is unique in terms of the capability it provides. Available in both I (X) and E/F (S) frequency bands both of these share a high degree of component commonality due to the similar modular design and system architecture. Kelvin Hughes’ whose equipment can be found on virtually every vessel in Royal Navy service can also offer variants of SharpEye™ across both frequency bands and to a similar design providing the MOD with the opportunity to realise significant savings in training and through life support. My understanding is that the SharpEye™ solid-state radar transceiver transmits a low power, patented pulse sequence incorporating pulse compression that enables superior range discrimination across all range scales which means that multiple operators can have access to an optimum picture at both long and short ranges simultaneously. Doppler processing of radar returns provides coherent information concerning a target’s velocity and improves the probability of detection of small objects with a low RCS (Radar Cross Section).
Through a series of electronic filters, SharpEye™ is also able to distinguish between targets of interest and clutter whilst customisable waveforms can be configured for specific threats and to enhance the detection of specific targets of interest such as UAVs and helicopters. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the radar’s low power output also reduces the probability of detection by enemy ESM equipment.
The contract award to Kelvin Hughes that was announced by Lockheed Martin last week will cover the demonstration, manufacture and in-service support for the system, providing the optimal technically compliant solution and best value for money for the Royal Navy. My understanding is that this will sustain 14 jobs at Lockheed Martin’s Havant facility and create five additional roles in the company.
Tracing its roots back over 250 years Kelvin Hughes has long been regarded as the market innovator for radar sensors and systems. Through an unprecedented list of technology firsts that include the first type of approved commercial radar system back in 1947, the first slotted waveguide array radar in 1956, the first colour radar in 1988 to today’s world first commercially available, affordable and multipurpose solid state radar for maritime navigation, port-vessel traffic services, coastline surveillance and ground and marine security applications Kelvin Hughes is just the sort of technology company that the UK needs to encourage.
Today Kelvin Hughes employs over 400 people worldwide and is divided into three business units: Security Systems, Maritime Systems and ChartCo. Offering 24/7 support the company operates a worldwide support network with eleven offices in seven countries.
SharpEye™ solid state radar was originally launched in 2006 and was the first commercially available and affordable solid state radar. SharpEye™ SCV was launched in 2011 and provided the world’s first small boat situational awareness ‘Doppler’ surveillance radar for capital ship capability right down to small watercraft. This was followed in 2013 by the launch of the SharpEye™ upmast carbon composite multipurpose navigation radar which is the first radar of its type to produce the sensor housing and turning unit from a carbon composite material. The capability adopts a stealth or low RCS design to compliment modern day ships design techniques. Following this, SharpEye™ SxV was launched as the world’s first 360 degree X-Band pulse Doppler radar for ground surveillance and marine security applications.
SharpEye™ systems are currently deployed by 27 of the world’s navies. The capability award from Lockheed Martin is a further vote of confidence in this fascination technology and one that is already well recognised for the superior performance and reliability it provides.
As a company that I have known and watched for many years it is very pleasing to see innovative new technology emanating from a successful SME. CEO since 2007 Russell Gould who has been at Kelvin Hughes since 1985 has done a remarkable job in pushing the company forward and staying ahead of the game in respect of ongoing technology development.
With an eye to the future, Kelvin Hughes has embarked on a programme of continuous innovation to place it among the fastest-growing companies in the industry. The bottom line for me is that SharpEye™ sensor technology is yet another example of important world beating UK based sovereign capability and IP that has not only proved itself in service with a great many international navies but remains one that clearly has massive further potential in international markets.
CHW (London 31st March 2016)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS