New UK military ATM system operational

A new Air Traffic Management (ATM) system is up and running at RAF Shawbury, with variants of the system intended to be rolled out across more than 60 UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) sites in the UK and overseas, including Cyprus, Gibraltar, and the Falkland Islands, by 2024.

In a January 7 announcement the MOD confirmed the new ATM system, which has been installed as part of a £1.5bn contract, as being operational, providing controllers with “improved situational awareness” of the airspace.

New UK ATM system operational
RAF Shawbury in Shropshire is home to H135 Juno helicopters of the Defence Helicopter Flying School. UK MOD/Crown copyright

Around 300 jobs have been secured in Fareham and other areas of the UK since the contract was awarded to Aquila Air Traffic Management Services in 2014 - a joint venture between Thales and National Air Traffic Services.

UK Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin, said: “Ensuring our drones, fighter jets, helicopters and cargo aircraft operate safely and efficiently is critical to maintaining our capabilities and supporting our service personnel.”

According to the MOD the £1.5bn programme, known as Marshall, provides improved reliability, service, and cost savings through the use of Aquila engineering teams to maintain the equipment. The programme is expected to save the UK taxpayer up to £317m across the next 22 years.

Commenting on the announcement, Madeline Wild, associate defence analyst at analytics company GlobalData, stated: “The perhaps less flashy but integral command and control tech’ doesn’t get talked about often – usually larger weapon platforms – but this move is evidence of the country’s continued investment in more niche areas of defence.

Upgrades include the introduction of touchscreen communications systems in the control tower, in addition to a £400m investment in new surveillance radars, as well as navigation aids, and radios.