This Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) competition is seeking proposals for the development of innovative technologies to provide novel methods of Early Warning (EW) for maritime operations. Run on behalf of the Royal Navy, this competition aims to develop alternative future concepts for the Airborne Early Warning systems that currently enable deployed capabilities within the Carrier and Littoral Strike Groups.

£1.25M is available to fund contracts with a maximum value of £250k each. The duration of each of the funded contracts is to be no longer than 9 months. This phase will focus on maturing key underpinning ideas and technologies to demonstrate concept feasibility.

We are looking to undertake continuous development of solutions and our intent is to provide further funding to projects that are demonstrated to be successful during this initial period. Therefore, unlike previous DASA competitions, this is the only planned phase for this call. Further development of solutions beyond the initial period of up to 9 months, will take place through a Framework Contract and tasking.

There is a requirement to develop a capability that provides air and surface surveillance to enable over-the-horizon situational awareness to Royal Navy assets deployed within the Carrier and Littoral Strike Groups, where not otherwise available in those formations. The capability should provide Commanders with a clear, detailed and enduring picture of the battlespace. It should also support Commanders’ decision-making by providing detection, tracking and recognition of surface and airborne objects within sufficient timescales to react appropriately.

This capability has historically been delivered by sensors mounted on airborne platforms to increase detection range. However, we are interested in any alternative proposals that could match or exceed these capabilities, particularly for low-level and/or signature-controlled threats. Ultimately, we are seeking a potential successor to the near-term capability, Crowsnest (an EW system fitted to the Merlin Mk2 helicopter), which has a planned out-of-service date of 2029.

The current assumptions for a follow-on capability to Crowsnest are based around a single, large radar sensor mounted on a type of uncrewed air platform. The purpose of this competition is to investigate the potential of alternative solutions which are not based on this particular approach.

This competition aims to identify concepts which could enhance:

  • Carrier and Littoral Strike Group situational awareness through improved surveillance horizons and/or target detection capability
  • Operational effectiveness through timely processing and dissemination of information
  • Operational efficiency through optimisation of system functionality

Platform solutions must not be constrained by geographical and/or environmental factors, such as the need to operate in high wind conditions, sea state, or latitudes.

Although no Technology Readiness Level is specified for this competition, we are looking for proof-of-concept work against specific challenge areas, therefore we would expect solutions at or below TRL 5.

This competition has 3 challenge areas.

3.1 Challenge 1: Threat Detection and Situational Awareness

Means of detecting, tracking, recognising and identifying hostile and non-hostile contacts, on the surface of the water and in the air, at extended ranges and in a variety of atmospheric conditions where sensor coverage by the Carrier or Littoral Strike Group is not otherwise available.

3.2 Challenge 2: Information Processing and Dissemination

Means of integrating Threat Detection and Situational Awareness data with other air and surface platforms within the Carrier and Littoral Strike Groups into a composite picture of activity over a maritime area of interest. Means of relaying that data between system nodes, converting formats where necessary, in real time, to enable timely decision making.

3.3 Challenge 3: Optimising Efficiency

Means of minimising workforce requirement through a reduced operator and support burden. Novel or innovative methods of combining system functionality will also be considered, alongside solutions to enhance decision-making efficiency.

The total funding available for Phase 1 of this competition is £1.25M (ex VAT), but individual proposals cannot exceed £250k (ex VAT). If successful, contracts will be awarded for a maximum duration of 9 months for this phase. A Framework Contract will be in place to allow further development, via a tasking form process.

You can register to book a 15 minute one-to-one telecon slot with the competition team to discuss any technical questions you have for the competition. Slots are available on 20th May and 27th May, and will be booked on a first come, first serve basis.