Thales UK has been awarded a £27 million 'intention to proceed' contract by Lockheed Martin UK to upgrade the acoustics systems on 30 Merlin Multi Mission helicopters.
The agreement, which Thales won against stiff competition at the Farnborough International Air Show, also includes an option to upgrade a further eight systems.
Airborne groups and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) elements of Thales will undertake the upgrades, which form part of the £750 million Merlin Capability Sustainment Plus (MCSP) programme.
"This is excellent news for Thales UK's naval business and we are very pleased that Lockheed Martin has selected us to provide this enhancement to the Royal Navy's ASW Merlin helicopter," commented Ed Lowe, managing director of Thales UK's naval business.
The aim of the MCSP is to make Merlins a more "potent" threat, by updating acoustics and developing maritime capabilities with improved submarine detection. This will be achieved with "an impressive weapon system", according to the Ministry of Defence.
Obsolescence issues will also be addressed, extending the equipment's life until 2029 with flexible computer interfaces and open architecture systems.
Since the initial Merlin Mk1 contract in 1992, Thales UK has made significant advances in its dipping sonar and sonobuoy processing systems, with cutting-edge shallow water detection, tracking algorithms, digital sonobuoys and enhanced display formats.