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BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold visits Selex SA&S at Edinburgh

“In the 1990s SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems (S&AS), then GEC-Marconi Avionics, made a strategic decision to concentrate future radar development activities on AESA (Active Electronic Scanned Array) technology. This investment decision complemented the AMSAR Technology Demonstrator Programme a European initiative to create the technology base for the next generation of AESA based airbone radar systems. The benefits of AESA radars are clear – higher reliability than mechanically scanned radars leading to greater availability, better mission success and lower life cycle costs, and greater performance in both air-to-air and air-to-surface roles. Radar systems which employ AESA technology are becoming the de-facto standard for the primary sensor on advanced aircraft. This investment has culminated in the Seaspray, Vixen and Picosar family of modern AESA based products for fire control and surveillance application.” Paul Holbourn, Capability Director of SELEX S&AS, said.

The optimism expressed by SELEX S&AS was in stark contrast to the Editor’s last visit in 1982. The then Ferranti Company was suffering a hiatus in business and was re-establishing its own product portfolio to compete with GEC-Marconi and the U.S. giants in home and overseas markets. The building the Editor visited then was developed from a greenfield site at Crewe Toll in 1943 for the manufacture of Gyro gun sights for the Spitfire and later to the development of the first monopulse radar, the AI 23 for the English Electric Lightning. This led to the development of Foxhunter, a programme shared with Marconi for the Tornado F3 and then the very successful Blue Vixen for the Sea Harrier FA2. The next battleground was for the Eurofighter radar where the rival consortia – one led by Ferranti and one led by AEG offering a variant of the Hughes APG-65. The Euroradar consortium won the day and the Captor radar was chosen.

The Captor win was a significant boost for the company and following the BAE Systems acquisition of GEC-Marconi, the Edinburgh based business moved into brand new premises in 2000. Throughout this period the full-scale development of the AESA radars continued in earnest. In 2005 the business was sold by BAE Systems to Finmeccanica,

The Edinburgh Site is now the largest segment of SELEX S&AS’s U.K. operations and employs 2000 people in airborne radar and electro-optics

“The decision to exploit the AESA technology has paid huge dividends to the Company and the U.K. Technology base. Having developed the core technology and the modular approach to building systems of any size and weight, we are now looking at establishing the system in world markets. The establishment of the AESA system in the U.K. market was key to international sales, thus the choice of the Seaspray 7000E for the Future Lynx Programme was a key development,” David Graham, AESA Radar Director said.

On February 19th 2007 SELEX S&AS announced the award of a contract by AgustaWestland to provide the multi-mode AESA surveillance radar for the MoD’s Future Lynx helicopter programme. The £20m contract will see the SELEX S&AS Seaspray 7000E radar, which has the latest Active AESA radar technology, installed on the Royal Navy’s Surface Combatant Maritime Rotorcraft (SCMR), a variant of the Future Lynx helicopter

This latest AESA radar win builds on the contract awarded by Lockheed Martin for the Common Processor for the Blue Kestrel radar on the Royal Navy’s Merlin Capability Sustainment Plus (MCSP) programme. This standardisation allows the significant benefits of coherent system acquisition to be achieved across the Royal Navy helicopter fleet – both operational and value for money. The new processor for Merlin will be virtually identical to that on SCMR and this will allow the significant benefits of coherent system acquisition to be achieved across

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