The Merlin helicopters equipped with the Crowsnest ASaC role kit are a critical aspect of the carrier strike programme. In this article, we look at how the troubled Crowsnest development project and efforts to bring the system into frontline service have progressed in the last year or so.
In basic terms, a Crowsnest aircraft is equipped with a Searchwater 2000 radar that extends the radar horizon to give the carrier group give early warning of air or surface threats. The radar is carried in an inflatable Kevlar bag attached by an arm to the port side of the fuselage and after take-off, is lowered to the vertical position. When not in use, the radome is is rotated 90º to the horizontal position and the bag deflated. The pilot is accompanied by two skilled observers in the back of the aircraft that used the Cerberus mission system to interpret the radar picture and coordinate other aircraft.
Three Crowsnest-equipped Merlin helicopters were deployed on the 2021 carrier strike group deployment. (More details in our previous articles here) but their performance was very limited primarily by instability in the System Release 11.0 version of the software. Industry has worked hard to learn the lessons from CSG21 and an improved System Release 11.4 was delivered in April 2022. This release was applied to the ASaC Mission Trainer at RNAS Culdrose and to two Merlins deployed with HMS Prince of Wales on NATO duty in the Mediterranean in May and June.
Flight testing began with System Release 12.0 in mid-2022 which will be the baseline version needed to achieve Initial Operating Capability (IOC) and includes better over-land surveillance capability, improved communication with F-35s and new radar modes. Two Merlins equipped with System Release 12.2 went to sea on HMS Queen Elizabeth during the 3-week CSG22 spent in the North Sea in November 2022. Paul Livingston, Chief Executive of prime contractor Lockheed Martin UK told the Commons Defence Select Committee on 29 November that this release is “performing well, it is much more stable – we were having a lot of [software] instability problems last year – and that capability is now coming together… We are looking very hard at what reports come back from CSG22, because we are seeing significantly improved performance.”
IOC, originally planned for March 2020 but then postponed until September 2021 has not yet been achieved and the MoD stated in July that it was reviewing when this milestone could be met. This month it emerged that, although precise details of IOC are classified, pre-requisites in terms of trained people, equipment, modified aircraft, training equipment and support have already been delivered or exceeded. Another software update is awaited and pending final flight testing, safety and airworthiness clearances, IOC will be achieved in Q2 of 2023.
Livingstone suggested the FOC goalpost may have been moved slightly: “Since the navy has started using [Crowsnsest] they have actually changed some of what they may want the system to do in the future, there is a live discussion between the MoD, the RN, LM and our subcontractors, on additional things they would want embed that weren’t even in the specification that was signed up to… Lockheed Martin determined to see it through and complete its development”. Systems Release 14 will be the baseline for achieving FOC, probably sometime in 2024-5.
Aircraft ZH831 has been the testbed used at Yeovil focusing on the impact of the Crowsnest fit on flight performance. New aircraft management software is being used to account for the additional drag and stress on the airframe caused by the radar in its bag. This will be used as a mission planning tool to determine range and performance. It will also provide data on the stresses experienced by moving parts of the aircraft in Crowsnest configuration to aid maintenance planning and workload. All 30 of the RN’s Merlin Mk2s are being equipped with the wiring, hardpoints and software needed to accept the Crowsnest role kit. More than half of the aircraft had received this modification by mid-2022. This will provide a measure of flexibility for the small and hard-worked Merlin Mk2 fleet and the aircraft maintainers continue to reduce the time it takes them to install or remove the kits.
It is expected that 5 Merlins of 820 NAS will have Crowsnest fitted at any given time. 3 ‘frontline’ aircraft will be allocated to the high-readiness carrier while 2 will be used for training and operational evaluation work. A total of 10 role kits are being procured so there is the option to increase the number of Crowsnest aircraft but only at the expense of reducing the ASW-optimised MPH force. A new cadre of ASaC observers trained and qualified on the Crowsnest system from the outset of their careers is now feeding through to 820 Squadron, skilled and experienced people to operate the system are every bit as important as the new kit.
The Merlin has now been extended in service until 2040 but the RN’s Future Maritime Aviation Force vision hopes to replace Crowsnest with uncrewed aircraft by around 2030. A 7-year timeframe appears to be very optimistic given the considerable technical challenges that go way beyond just getting a radar into the sky using vertical lift.
All this time , effort and money sunk into a bespoke system of limited capability. This is where the UK gets it’s defence procurement so wrong. Why do we keep repeating the ame mistake over and over again
So what of the shelf system would you have picked for this roll?
If anyone is thining of volunteering the name of the Italian AW101 AEW platform they need to be aware that they have been hangared for 6 years now as they didn’t work….the aircraft are now spares hulks, stripped down…
The only one I could think of otherwise are the Norwegian SAR AW101s that have conformal (?) AESA arrays along the fueselage. But obviously, they’re optimised for surface search etc. so wouldn’t be an OTS solution either.
Simply put, everything would be a development of something.
Where did you get that information ?. Conformal arrays on Norwegian SAR AW101
Doesnt say they are a conformal array though.
Just a flat panel, likely in the nose radome ( flat part beneath the rounded section ) as this photo from Leonardo doesnt have any conformal array
Not to be unkind, but the idea was that you go and do some of your own research at that point.
This link here explains that the three panels are spaced around the body of the aircraft, not on the belly. One in the nose and the other two somewhere around the rear. Given them smooth lines on the aircraft, I’d have to describe their placement as conformal with the body of the airframe- but apologies if I’ve used the wrong word.
Yes. That’s right one on the nose and two more on fuselage edge behind sponsors. Give as a diagram
Ah, even better than the one I found!
Yes, I think it has potential for AEW, but I imagine the panels may want to be a bit bigger, and they’d have to be able to handle a presumably higher power output than for SAR. I imagine it’s way less problematic for balance, loading, drag etc. than the big Crowsnest bag. I think that’s the only option I can think of that would have been a better bet than what we have, but I don’t know if it was even available back then. And, as we’ve already noted, would still have needed development- which would have put risk on the project.
I think there’s a similar setup for almost the same system that can be mounted on the GA SeaGuardian UAV too, which long-term might be the better way to go. At the moment it’s still surface search optimised though.
The central issue(s) is(are) cooling and coherence.
It takes a lot of computing to recombine an incoherent radar image…on a ship where power/cooling and another cabinet of servers are easy to accommodate no problem these days.
The bagging approach has certain advantages.
I’m slightly surprised…..
Maybe they should have thought about this issue before designing and building the carriers. Not really joined up thinking is it as the MOD staggers from one failing project to another whilst spending billions on equipment that doesn’t work and no hope of any export sales.
So who would you suggest does it better? The French? The Germans? The US? You obviously haven’t read any audit reports for their armed services, you would be surprised to learn that they make the MOD look like professionals!
You are a dull blade.
Nothing wrong with what Mike said. Just because others are equally poor is no excuse.
Prefer to be a “dull blade” who basses his opinions on logic analysis of international available data than a “sharp blade” who bases his opinions on emotive downer nonsense which has no foundation in objective reality.
It’s hard to fault the French in comparison to the MOD, especially when so much of their defense is supplied domestically on the same budget.
Jaguar was ordered years after Ajax and entered service years earlier.
They designed and delivered their own Nuclear deterrent, and Nuclear propulsion.
Most of their Frigates are less than half the age of the RN.
They have 3 LHD’s, 1 Nuclear Carrier and a second on order.
They have more Atlas 400s now than the RAF
Rafale ended up securing more exports than Typhoon, largely due to their improved Radar coming to market sooner.
Its not on order ( why do people confuse ships models with production?) ….’Naval Group introduced its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier concept during the 2022 Euronaval trade conference in Paris’.
And it will replace the CDG not complement it
“The PANG is set to replace France’s nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier by 2038, with the first sea trials expected to take place in 2036.”
What has that got to do with anything talking above? As usual, you are confusing the issue with your chips on the shoulder.
Hello. Fact check calling
“They have 3 LHD’s, 1 Nuclear Carrier and a second on order.”
“Eighteen Airbus A400M-180 Atlas turboprop strategic airlifters form the core of the Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace’s (AAE, French Air and Space Force) transport force. Currently in service with the 61e and 64e Escadre de Transport (61st and 64th Transport wings) at Orleans-Bricy and Évreux-Fauville Air Bases,
of course the French dont have the superlative C-17 like the RAF does and the plan is only have 25 in service by 2025. The order for 50 was just a dream.
So, France is opting again for a fleet that has “five eights of a carrier”? What is wrong with them?
The RN has looked at nuclear power for surface combatants for some years but determined it more costly in the long term. The french intended to build two carriers but found it too expensive meaning only one could be built. They planned two modified QE class but pulled out and will now replace CDG with one ship leaving no replacement when it undergoes refit. Refit times for nuclear powered vessels tend to be longer than conventional vessels. The old Ark royal could theoretically complete an engine change at sea. I doubt this would be possible with CDG or it’s successor.
When the t26 and T31/2 program is completed the age of the RN frigates will be less than half that of the french.
As mentioned before the RAF have the C17 in addition to the A400 as well as more C130J aircraft.
sales of rafaele may have been improved by “special offers” rather than any equipment it carried.
Yes. If anything it should be highlighted that France like Italy has a continuous build policy for their warships.
Uk learned nothing from the Astute build cap and went straight into a major surface warship build gap from about 2010 for 5 years ( election time!)
BB85 your depiction of French armed services bears no relation to reality and is typical of the rose tinted analysis of other nations military. If you bothered to read French military blogs you would discover that they have more than their share of cock-ups. But ignorance is bliss.
I find it hard to put any weight to the argument that MoD shouldn’t have gone ahead with NTP on the carriers because we didn’t have a successor to SeaKing AEW fully ironed out. That’s the epitome of carts before horses.
I fully agree that the AEW programme hasn’t run smoothly, and that maybe an alternative solution could have worked better. But to say that we shouldn’t have gone for carrier strike because of it? I’d have to strongly disagree.
The MOD is running several successful high value projects, especially in comparison to their overall budget, but I think a lot of the historical problem has been to do with how the budget is released for use by Treasury; my understanding (backed up by NAO reports) is that the project budget for each acquisition is portioned up over its lifetime and assigned to each budget year. However, if there’s unexpected overspend required to close out a risk early, prevent a later cost escalation (or even take advantage of an opportunity that might improve performance or cost in the long run), there was no float in the project budget. It either needed to be found from somewhere else in the annual budget (robbing Peter to pay Paul, basically), or the opportunity was lost (causing greater cost/loss of capability further down the line), or something else was delayed or axed to cover it. This causes any one project to not only fall out of scope itself, but also potentially a number of others.
For any highly complex project, that’s not even close to the ideal way of doing things- budgets should have some level of float in them (carefully controlled, of course) to be used in the situations I’ve described. This keeps the project much closer to budget, schedule, quality, and every other metric in the long run. Also, it prevents the one from impacting the rest, improving the delivery of projects across the department. But only the most recent MOD projects (Dreadnaught being the one I can think of) have had this kind of budget set up, as far as I understand it. Hopefully the next batch of major projects will too.
I have no idea whether the above has directly impacted the Crowsnest acquisition, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did- it’s been mentioned by the NAO for a number of years as a key failing between the MOD and HMT.
Joe16, whilst I don’t disagree with anything you say, if you look at some of the recent GAO reports on DOD projects, having budget “floats” or lack of fiscal discipline can lead to far worse consequences. As a former risk manager on major projects, there is always a trade off. But at the end of the day nothing trumps experience in project management and this is the major failing of MOD oversight.
Lockheed Martin offered their own alternative, but it was more expensive and the MOD felt stripping out the kit from the Seakings and fitting it on Merlin was a far simpler and cheaper option with much less risk of complications………
Lockheed didnt have a complete system on offer , it was to use the Northrop Grumman APG-81 radar from the F-35 ( not Lockheeds !) and get UK to pay for the development of the software to integrate these multiple flat plate transmitters receivers into a AEW tracking and classification system, and no guaranteed for success in the time and money available. No other helicopter or even E-2D has such an existing system
Closest might be the Kawasaki P-1 MPA which uses 4 radars beneath cockpit cheeks and front and rear ( Toshiba HPS-106 AESA) but thats oriented for surface ships and subs periscopes.
US navy and RAF uses mechanically scanned APY-10 for its P-8
Any comment from the aesa fan boy club on this travesty !!
You could also add that on the limited trials the Vigilance system underwent that it injured the crew….who were contractors.
Power supply issues in cabin ?
The F-35 performs perfectly well without the ‘capability’ Crowsnest doesn’t bring to the table.
Its a bomb truck with some air to air capability. Notice how US plus 2 new projects in Europe are working on fighters which are the other way round.
The F-35 is notorious for over promising and under delivering, but it sure does have its fans over the last 20 years of its development
A ‘bomb truck’? Spoken like an armchair warrior who never speaks to the pilots. The F-35 very comfortably outperforms the F-16 or F-18 as a fighter, and is more than a match for the F-15 and Typhoon.
LOL…more than a match for the F-15 or even sillier the Typhoon?
Its a strike fighter which was optimised for the strike role and with a small radar plate to suit despite being ‘slightly heavier’ than the twin engined F15E strike eagle but way below its capability.
the F35 triplets were amazing technical achievement and was way ahead of its time – 20 years back when its development started.
never an equal for the optimised fighters ( with strike as a secondary role) for say Rafale and Typhoon.
Stick to World of Warplanes, You seriously don’t have a clue.
It’s a fifth generation fighter, its sensor synergy and ability to ensure situational awareness is what makes it what it is, fourth generation fighters are essentially targets for fifth generation fighters who will kill them before they are aware of the threat. You would never expect a third generation fighters to be able to compete with a fourth generation fighter and there is a greater difference between fifth and fourth generation than there is between third and fourth generation.
“ A total of 10 role kits are being procured so there is the option to increase the number of Crowsnest aircraft but only at the expense of reducing the ASW-optimised MPH force.”
Or in the alternative eyes can be put in the sky elsewhere?
There has to be a reason why they are saying all Merlin get the hard points?
There is a broader plan here otherwise why buy 10 sets? Although I would guess the incremental manufacturing cost of 5 -> 10 is not much as most of the cost is in R&D and software.
The only reason I can see for all Merlin to get hard points is that the impact on airframe fatigue life is so substantial that they wish to even it out across the whole fleet to avoid forced early retirements?
helicopters dont have the airframe fatigue issues that pressurised aircraft have.
The AAC is even having its Apache airframes recycled through a modification program with newer engines and a full systems change.
No they are not. All AH64E for the AAC are new builds
Thats what they want you to think. Boeing Arizona says they are rebuilds like they are doing for US Army.
My goodness, the gullible always fall for the political spin ( and is the UK short of money, does the bear—– in the woods ?)
US government contracts are always publicised , not like the UK MoD which give a vague ‘system price’
$12 mill per unit ( but inc trainers and spares) doesnt get you a new Apache by a long shot
Amazing, an off the shelf radar and an off the shelf helicopter and IOC 3 years late.
The big problem with software is that no one in the higher decision making chain actually understands the risks that they are taking on.
Defence forces the world over are poor risk managers because no one is ultimately accountable and as a result they are far too willing to tick off risks as ‘manageable’ without having a real handle on what that will entail.
Nothing will change until decision makers are made accountable. That will never happen with politicians, so senior military and senior civil service must be made more careful with what passes their desks.
Might I encourage an alternative point of view?
From two points:-
UK experience with F35B has grown; and
There has been an active war in progress that has been electronically monitored against a range of threats. We have had our Rivets up there hoovering EM as well as other monitoring.
From both of these inputs digital relevance will have moved on.
What has F35b got to do with it? Or indeed EW in the Ukraine?
We are talking about an airborne radar in helicopter. Not F35b. Not EW.
From both of these inputs digital relevance will have moved on? Buzzword bingo.
F35B opened RAF eyes as to the necessity of Radar2 and will have informed RN thinking…..
Lots of things about how Russian weapons work have now been 100% understood so the findings will have been incorporated into how the various modes on Crows Nest work.
EW is a main plank of RN doctrine. You do realise that Crows Nest and its predecessor did EW?
But never mind: keep thinking of it as a WWII pinger…..like the H2S set that Vulcan still used when it was withdrawn……
At the moment the RN needs an eye in the sky. Let’s optimize that first. Opfor have a plethora of wizzbangs. We need a ‘pinger’. Basics.
An intelligent observation, no place for that hear, the MOD must be rubbish, putting in more requirements and delaying a non-urgent project, what were they thinking.
Not urgent? Really? How is 1981?
Possibly… do you think MOD made a good showing designing the force for Falklands?
In my opinion Carrier AEW is more important than Type 31 frigate.
Really ? So the Japanese, Italian and Spanish carriers all have organic AEW ?
The Chinese PLA Navy does, it that enough? Is RN going to Asia then?
Only Italians basically have a permament carrier force. They tried to have an AEW on the cheap and failed.
Spanish for while not even had a carrier between PA dismissal and SJ arrival. Japanese don’t have a carrier force.
japan doesnt have a carrier / So whats this and they have F-35B on order as well
27,000 tons full load, they didnt call them carriers initially for political reasons ( same issue for RN in the 1970s) but do so now
So they bit the bullet and the multi-purpose destroyer tag is no more. When did that happen?
Preciselty, it will take year for F35 to be operational in their carrier, so why you expect they have had AEW without a doctrine, aircraft etc…?
I think the plan is 2025 for the first helicopter destroyer to become a F35B carrier.
AlexS is correct, the JMSDF currently does not possess a carrier force. They are presently modifying the Izumo class and procuring F-35B. By the way, they are still called multi-purpose destroyers.
Our rivets lol….
The question as alluded to in the article is: what will replace it and when? There’s no point in spending huge effort if the replacement is just around the corner. But I don’t think it is, and Crowsnest’s 2030 out-of-service date won’t happen if a high-powered AEW radar is used. Even going with a large number of low-powered rotaries, maybe using Leonardo’s under-development 3-ton drone, would be tough to organise by then.
Alternatively it could be fixed wing, Vixen that we know nothing about; or tiltrotor, maybe trying to leverage the US army’s forthcoming work on the Bell Valor. Neither of these is a shoo-in for 2030, even without the radar and comms. It’s worth remembering the USMC with all its resources gave up on carrier-launched AEW because it was too difficult. Admittedly their MUX programe was over ambitious, neededing long endurance, high power, and covering multiple missions.
There’s not only the platform to think about. We know there’s comms/networking budget, but unless there’s already work going towards the replacement radar as part of Tempest, it looks like Crowsnest will continue well into the 2030s, maybe all the way to 2040.
The replacement might be a fusion of Radar2 with RR’s compact power dense mini jets?
Radar2 is, apparently, not that heavy, but very power hungry.
Thing is once you know the package that you have to lift and it actually exists and works then it is an issue of working backwards to create or reuse a frame.
I think some of the Tempest radar ideas, eg. integrating receivers with the antennae, could make it lighter still. But don’t you still need the big antenna for lower frequencies to get the volume/range? High power also gives you electronic attack options, which would certainly be useful.
Were you thinking fixed wing? STOBAR?
I may not have heard about the mini jets. Are these Orpheus, because I didn’t realise they were high power? I was thinking adaptive would be very useful as it provides a combination of the higher endurance and fuel efficiency in general flight, swapping to high power when you need it.
We also might get a little more power out of synthetic fuel use.
More correctly I should have said Power Dense jets from RR – these are based on generating huge amounts of electricity for energy weapons.
Embedded Electrical Starter Generator or E2SG demonstrator programme.
Conrad Banks, Chief Engineer for Future Programmes at Rolls-Royce said:
“The electrical embedded starter-generator will save space and provide the large amount of electrical power required by future fighters.
Existing aircraft engines generate power through a gearbox underneath the engine, which drives a generator.
In addition to adding moving parts and complexity, the space required outside the engine for the gearbox and generator makes the airframe larger, which is undesirable in a stealthy platform.”
My guess is that it will be a relatively lightweight, large wing, composite airframe. If the arrested landing side of things can be solved. I would further speculate that these will be launched off a cheap commercial conversion to prove them fully before carving up the QECs to put the arrestor gear into them. Not being VSTOL the deck isn’t so special. It also de-risks any deck conflicts in the present configuration and means that QEC can continue their workup with F35B uninterrupted.
The VSTOL AEW is seductive as it can more easily slot into the QEC’s operations. However, unless there is a capable platform about it is a much bigger challenge to develop one that to develop a fixed wing drone.
Agree about the commercial conversion. I’ve been hoping for a couple of through-deck MRSS that can be used as escort/drone carriers along with CSGs and LRGs. That way even if a catapult is needed, we won’t need to take the carriers out of commission until mid-life, by which time we might actually know what we are doing.
I think arrested landing is easier to solve than catapult launch. The MacTaggart Scott arrestors might be good enough, so no need to pay the Americans through the nose. They’d probably need a bit of work, but we aren’t talking next decade.
Hello Jon, it’s an interesting Idea but surely the cost’s to design and build such ships with a through deck C and T capability plus all the other mission roles would be enormous ? Will we even have enough Escorts and Sub’s to protect such vital assets ?
We are building MRSS anyway. It’s not that hard if you are still in the concept phase (as we are) to factor in some flexibility, including shifting the superstructure. Okay it probably is, but through-deck is a known quantity, and the ships are supposed to be flexible and modular. As for cats and traps, either we need them and the alternative is putting them on the carriers at far, far greater expense, or we don’t. If they sail in CSG or LRG they’ll have the same protection as the carriers. If not, they won’t be doing AEW escort work.
MRSS was supposed to replace logistics, mothership work and LPD type fuctionality in the Bays, but we’ll have FSS, so it’s going to skew more towards LPD and amphibious attack. As for all the other missions, all MRSS don’t all have to do exactly the same thing. Another can add casualty receiving, another can be more focused on troop transport or UUV/minehunting. Flat deckspace seems to be increasingly valuable real estate these days and a couple of through-decks with the same hull as the rest would be worth it.
I’ll leave it to the knowledgable people here to say why losing superstructure and repurposing interior mission space for hangars isn’t possible. In my ignorance I can’t see any reason why not.
N.A.B. is the person who might be able to answer all that. Personally I just think It’s a big ask. The interesting bit about the possible CT requirement is it’s not for F35B’s, more for lower weight aircraft so Drones might just be the future but on what platform ?
The Navy must have had an aircraft or system in mind, when the MoD released its request for information on the EMALS and arrestor system. The specifications were so specific, ie launch an aircraft of up to 24,948kg (55,000lbs) and recover an aircraft with a max trap of 21,319kg (47,000lbs), which includes an energy damping and recovery method.
These weights are too low for a large manned aircraft such as a E2D Hawkeye or even a F35C. However, the Navy has stated that the specifications are for large unmanned aircraft. The specifications allow for an aircraft that is four times the max take-off weight of the MQ9B Sea-Guardian for instance.
Which raises some interesting questions about what the Vixen program could be? One UAV that does come within the RFI specifications is the Boeing MQ25 Stingray. This aircraft has been designed primarily as a tanker. But is going to have a secondary ISTAR role. Could this be what the Navy had in mind? As it would certainly help the F35B’s combat radius, or CAP duration.
The Stingray is certainly big enough to house and power three to four X-band AESA arrays, such as Leonardo’s Osprey 100. Along with powering a very wide band data-link for remote signal processing. Or, as the airframe is large enough, it could mount the Saab Erieye antenna array. Again, doing its signal processing remotely. Sadly, the engine is too small to mount and power both types of radar. Though knowing Rolls Royce, they would definitely come up with a solution using the integrated shaft generator.
Including the lower weight cat and trap on the carriers, does raise some tantalizing future possibilities. Especially for a Crowsnest replacement.
Interesting. But I suppose MQ-25 means a full conversion job for both carriers. A heck of a commitment.
You said Osprey could detect fighter size objects out to >200 NM. Erieye, doesn’t range much further at 230. Is it worth both?
Mesa L band is 10.8m and might be an alternative if power is available and weight isn’t too much, given a catapult launch. Also Mesa is 360 degrees and Erieye is 300.
My moneys on a MQ-9B Sea Guardian…basically a Protector RG.1 with folding wing, derived from the high lift STOL wing from the Mojave (albeit with much larger span). It’s been shown with a SeaSpray radar underneath already…long duration also means you could have multiple platforms up at once, at high level, for 18-24hrs at a time.
GA even had the Mojave onboard QE at the Atlantic Future Forum recently…they can smell an opportunity…
But did the Mojave fly there or was it craned on there?
The computer generated the images…. I hear many movies use it because it looks so real
Sadly, the Sea Guardian would be limited to operating a single mechanically rotated AESA antenna. Operated in the X-band. Its max take -off weight and fuselage real estate is too small to mount and power more than 1 higher power AESA array. It is certainly too small for a lower frequency AESA radar. For example the SAB Erieye is 9m long, whilst the MQ9 is only 11m long.
Wonder whether there could be a joint organic AEW program w/ USMC in the future? Both services have many common requirements and apparently work well together.
A half arsed project. The primary lesson that came out of the Falklands was the need for AEW. It is a fundamental. It is more important than the bomb truck. There should be enough sets to have two flights at sea with 6 cabs in each. New cabs.
Everybody here goes into rapture over Sampson. But it is only half the equation.
Never mind other goodies like mid course correction for BVR missiles.
It reminds me of how everybody enthuses here over TLAM. But never considers were dependent on either the US or a company owned by Airbus aka the French government for targeting data.
It is like buying a really expensive rifle and then not being able to afford the scope.
Utter cock up.
I laugh, out loud, when I see that photo.
Think of it this way.
Which is why the bagging solution was adopted as it is aerodynamically constant when the bag is inflated.
This thing would be a nightmare in the hover on a moderately windy day.
Never said it was a better or optimum piece of kit. I just like the photo. So quick to bite…….
“ A half arsed project”
You then gave an example of the ultimately half arsed project that the school science club could have told you was a nightmare from the off.
The Indians cancelled their 2nd buy…..that says something.
I just like the picture. Never said it was any good. You bit once. And then bit again…………
The antenna when not in use, folds up flat through 90 degrees along the bottom of the Ka31 Helix. The radar is an E-801 Oko that operates in the L-band (1 to 2 GHz, with a wavelength of 30 to 15 cm), hence why the antenna is so large. Performance is said to be not that great, where it can detect a fighter sized target 110km away. Which is less than half of what Crowsnest can do.
Airbus isnt owned by French government . Their share is around 10.9%, a token amount ( same as German government and half that again for Spain.)
You are wonderfully naive about the workings of the French state.
You still live in the 1960s …is it a sloop or a corvette?
I note other commentators are starting to see you as the troll that you are.
Overused word of the decade . Are you even sure of what it means…maybe because I have Norwegian ancestry
Anyway a merry Dovregubben Xmas for you
The fighting regarding the next combat aircraft is Dassault(supported by France) that wants to control the code and Airbus(supported mostly by Germans) that wants to have alsp access to it.
We have 2 good carriers and F35’bs but this is the weak spot, hoping drones will take this role in near future.
Afternoon. Just a question which arises every time this subject is written about, but what is the best system ? It always seems the Crow’s-nest get’s a bashing but what is better and can it be flown off our Carriers ? or, is it the only realistic system due to not having C’s and T’s ? Cheers, Phil.
i would think grumand hawkeye, but that means catapults and hawkeye purchase costs 2 billion ? + catapult training for pilot’s
I think it gets a bashing for two reasons. Poor spec and poor execution. We could have had higher spec even with the Merlin platform, the L-M Vigilance suite with radars based on the one in the F-35 or Israeli Eltas but we turned those down on cost grounds. (I think Vigilance is used elsewhere in the RN, possibly for navigation radars, so I assume it was the radar itself that was costly.)
As for execution, enough’s been said.
(Merlin with Vigilance pods: image from The Drive), Rick Ingham
Cost AND it was a major *development* program under LM tutelage which meant you would give them an open cheque book.
There has to be a reason no other helicopters use multiple AESA radars
Like Firescout C does?
I take your valid point, but you overstate the case. Multi-panel Osprey 30 was running in an AW101 back in 2016 when the Crowsnest contract was signed. That’s a UK AESA radar (admittedly ISR not AEW). LM had already developed sensor fusion for the F-35 before the trials earlier in the decade. Presumably that was the technology they were using, and maybe why that was the radar they initially offered, to derisk the project.
That was just a hardware demonstration not a full radar
The USN and RAF and others still use mechanically scanned APY-10 for the new P-8 system
By 2016, the production-ready multi-panel Osprey radar had received it’s first foreign sale for helicopters, with the AW101 being the platform of choice for Norway’s SAR, deliveries starting the following year. This wasn’t “just a demonstration”.
I agree with your point that L-M’s Vigilance system would have needed integrating, and seemed at the time to be a riskier project than moving the 1970’s technology to the Merlins, but you overstate the difficulties.
If you want to talk P-8 I can talk Wedgetail. It has nothing to do with multiple antenna radar on helicopters.
Vigilance was trialled in a preliminary fit…
It actually injured the crew…
I’ve heard that a few times, but what happened? Any links so I can read up?
I still can’t fathom selecting a 40-year-old mechanical radar technology over modern AESA system options. The UK typically leads in the implementation of new technologies in novel ways, but not this time.
There isn’t much money. And the bomb truck is everything.
What “bomb truck” ??
Have a think.
How did Italys AESA type system for its merlins turn out ?
The UK version was looked at but the technology to knit together the multiple direction facing transmitters via software on a helicopter airframe wasnt any where near possible in the time and money available. And we know how Lockheed likes to promise big on these sorts of things
Rotating still has its advantages, why even E-2D and its AN/APY-9 still does it, completing a full rev at either 10s, 12s or 15s, electronic beam shaping can only do so much.
As far as I’m aware all other helicopter AEW solutions being used still rotate their scanners including Cougar Horizon of ALAT
Italy AEW radar was not an AESA , it was just a longer antenna for the naval search radar. it was just a very cheap side extension, not even increased the antenna in vertical plan because they just had money to use the same installation supports so there was not enough discrimination in altitude because there was no space under the fuselage.
Italy’s AEW AW101 have been in hangars for 6 years and have been stripped down for spares…
That should tell you everything you need to know about how successful that programme was…
Crowsnest will work in due course…there is the potential for exports as well…
Spain still uses the ASaC Seaking…
Italy uses AW101 and has no AEW helos now…
Japan uses AW101 and needs AEW helos…
Keep on daydreaming, it’s laughable.
If any of that is going to happen, it will have happened by now.
Has just getting IOC for the UK next year. You are ahead of your self to write it off.
there is no other alternative for those other countries, can you think of one ?
The big issue is the correlation between antenna size and the operating wavelength. The Hawkeye’s E2D uses an AN/APY-9 AESA radar that is mechanically rotated in azimuth but uses electronic beam steering for elevation. It can also do forwards and backwards beam scanning whilst rotating.
However, it is a UHF radar where the radar band is 300MHz to 1GHz. That has a wavelength of 1m down to 10cm. Which means the antenna has to be proportional to the wavelength and therefore means it’s going to be pretty large. It also explains why the rotor dome housing the antenna is 24ft (7.3m) in diameter. It would be very difficult to mount 4 UHF AESA panels around the Hawkeye to give a 360 degree field of view.
Using the UHF band though gives the Hawkeye an exceptional detection range. Where it’s purported to be near 600km against “large” airborne targets.
Italy are also going to be fitting the Leonardo Osprey radar to their fleet of Merlins as per the Norwegian Coast Guard. But according to the Italian Navy the mult-role radar is going to be used for surface surveillance, anti-submarine (periscope hunting) but also airborne surveillance. They have alluded to the radar being used in the AEW capacity. We will have to wait and see how that works.
So what do you think of radar on the Valor, as now it’s been chosen for FLAA it is now the de facto future of medium lift.
Not likely . More of a specialised long range vertical lift, will be likely very expensive .
The Blackhawk UH-60 series is much smaller than say the Merlin and more comparable to Puma/Cougar H215 from Airbus
Leonardo has its own type the AW609 with a pressurised cabin
I’m still surprised Valor won over the Deviant, as I expected the tilt-rotor to carry more risk. The Defiant was a safer bet, as it represents an evolution of the helicopter. Whereas the Valor is a different path. Though the Valor’s speed and range advantage cannot be ignored. Especially when it gets the bigger engines. Though, I don’t think this will be the last we see of the Defiant though.
As an AEW platform, Valor has some significant advantages over a helicopter. It can fly higher, thus giving it a longer radar horizon. It can fly for a longer duration on internal fuel. Thus needing less pit stops for refueling along with maintaining radar coverage for longer. Although for a helicopter, Merlin flies quite smoothly. The Valor will be smoother still, and less fatiguing to fly in.
The Leonardo Osprey is scalable. The Osprey 50 that is being fitted to the Norwegian Merlins is good but the Osprey 100 is better.
The Osprey 100 in the company’s blurb states it can detect a “fighter” sized target over 200 nautical miles away. Which is pretty good for an X-band radar. Any more and you need to seriously ramp up the output power. But also increase the antenna array size. Just as importantly Leonardo have said that the Osprey is Amp efficient. Which means the current draw per array is relatively low.
The Valor has a smaller airframe than the Merlin. Its engines collectively produce less power than the Merlin. Though the gap will shrink when the production version gets the Osprey’s engines. However, the power will be sufficient to operate 4 Osprey panels.
This would be a step change in capability. As it will give a near 360 degree continuous field of view, along with the other AESA benefits. It still won’t be able to compete with a E2D Hawkeye in overall detection range. But it will allow Valor to also monitor the seas surface for sub periscopes, along with small stealthy targets such as drones etc, where the Hawkeye would struggle.
To be brutally honest for the gold platted solution, a bigger aircraft is required. One that can carry both S-band and X-band AESA radars, preferably a dual panel S-band and a 4 panel X-band. So a combination of Saab’s Erieye and Leonardo’s Osprey would be an off the shelf solution. But then the aircraft has to also be carrier capable. So either a bigger tilt-rotor or a catapult launched fixed wing.
I have read more on that and the Defiant was the more risky. It even seems the coupling for some reason is rigid.
Should have bought more e3d or even Saab globaleye aircraft and forward deploy to criss cross the sky ahead of the carrier. And use drones for local area radar using aesa
The RAF said this in the past, and the Falklands proved that it’s not that easy to have those assets where the fleet is, Merlin ASAC isn’t the best solution, but i would would rather this actually being on station then the small possibility of a E3 Or E7, I think we should but more focus on air to air refuelling solutions and then drone AEW to free up the Merlin ASW fleet.
Getting fixed wing AEW down south was the problem that possessed everyone.
Organic AEW is much better in a CSG as it can’t be retained by a stretched RAF.
Back in ‘82 look down over water was a bigger issue than now as computers were not as good so the filtering had to be done, real time, in hardware. Now a high powered graphics card is your friend.
The Falklands was a long time ago , if the RAF had enough Voyagers or Wedgetails they could provide 24/7 coverage in a Falklands scenario nowadays, they’ve probably got enough Voyagers but we definitely need more Wedgetails.
Pointless system – totally outranged and outperformed by the F-35’s own radar.
There are two parts to AEW&C.
Airborne Early Warning requires an asset to be in the air constantly. F-35s have limited airframe hours and are costly as heck to operate. 24/7? It’s not going to happen. I doubt even the Yanks fly CAP 24/7 outside of a combat zone in places we’d still want/need an eye in the sky. And I’d expect they’ll be flying something cheaper to operate than an F-35 when they do it.
Command and Control requires human beings to evaluate the situation, make decisions and organise a response. Not something a single F-35 pilot can be doing at the same time as flying the plane, unlike the two dedicated people in the back of the Merlin. The alternatives are to relay a sensor fusion picture to a central command and control centre, or to use distributed C2. Neither options are available yet, but the relay option is the one that’s expected with the Crowsnest replacement.
everything that would make Crowsnest ‘useful’ is another, not yet, but at some point in the future option. It can’t even hand off an OTH missile shot.
And that’s before we come to rotary AEWs absolute Achilles heel, it’s height of eye – or lack of it. It’s ‘directing’ fighters who’s radar has twice the radar horizon Crowsnest is capable of achieving.
Radar horizon comes from the altitude of the radar. The little radar on the F-35 isnt something to champion
The Crowsnest doesnt need a lock on track like a F35 might as it has no missile to launch
That’s the F-35”s ‘little radar’ LM offered for its vastly superior Crowsnest solution?
The radar in Crowsnest is extremely limited – does a reasonable ground mapping mode, but other than that, it’s pretty poor.
Apparently the f35 radar option had severe heat issues and wasn’t 360 degrees in the Merlin configuration , LM dropped it in favour of an Elta Aesa radar but it was still a high risk option.
Compared to most fighter radars the F35 version is small face area , which is a proxy for the power of the radar
Of course they want to search/scan and track.
the P-8 new to RAF service doesnt use a flat plate AESA radar either
Sometimes mechanical movement works just fine alongside the phased array section
It’s smaller because it’s a vastly more efficient AESA radar?
Where do you get such information ? packets of breakfast cereal
The latest SPY-6 radars are even larger than SPY-1 even though they are more efficient ( less powerful versions are smaller again)
The larger area allows more emitter -receivers, which is more power
Do you just type random noise?
You ARE aware SPY-6 has a true exo atmospheric ABM capability – oh! That’s why it’s so large an powerful.
now back to fighter radars – the APG-81 runs rings around the obsolescent crap fitted to Typhoon.
SPY-7 is the system for Aegis ashore and of course existing SPY-1 ships incl the remaining Tioconderoga class are equipped for BMD
Its the SM-3 missile thats the key, with its extra 3rd stage, wider body and other electronic upgrades, all under the Aegis software and SPY-1 radars. Who knew they could, but the details are easily findable
Seems to be early stages yet , as even tests are not always going well.
Nope . he was just wrong . I learn a lot from others who know more than me.
Its well known that some radar scanners are reduced in size for their less powerful modes. I remember that the F-16 small radar was even reduced again for A-4 Skyhawk upgrades
Which however good it is can’t look 360 degrees all the time and a Merlin is much cheaper to keep in the air 24/7 , I’m sure in time datalinks will allow the crows nest controllers to merge the f35 picture with their own and vice Versa , it will still be a very useful tool
Yes , so right. Its how its used that makes the difference. Look how the RN made the Sea harrier work in so many ways and all they started with was adding a decent radar and BVR missiles to the original GR3.
When this came up a week or 2 back , many werent ware the Sea harrier 2 had the upgraded engine from GR7 and a better radar than the AV-8B+
Other than having too few Merlins in the fleet, I think the Crowsnest system is an admirable achievement and an excellent example of maximizing capability within a less than ideal overall framework. Meaning that everyone would love to have a fixed wing mini-AWACs platform, but Crowsnest is an admirable improvisation.
I agree that UAVs appear to be the wave of the future for at least some traditional carrier aviation tasks, but I also agree that this will be more than 7 years in the offing.
The RN knew this would be an issue once they decided on no catapults for the new carriers. On the other hand the new system is better than the old aircraft it had on Eagle and Ark Royal. It is the Radar that counts not the carrying aircraft if they had gone with catapults more cash would have been required for US Hawkeyes with the spending going to the US not the UK.
Incidentally what AEW aircraft do China or Russia use for their carriers?
China is moving to catapult carriers and the AEW will be Xian KJ-600 carrier-borne AEW, which is supposed to look a bit like an old Hawkeye, E-2C. But it could just as easily be a rip-off of the end-of-Soviet Yak-44, which wa cancelled when the Soviet Union collapsed.
The Russian helicopter version that they sold to China and was bought then the order halted by India was the Kamov Ka-31. Russia doesn’t have a working carrier at the moment, but the most up-to-date version is the Ka-31R. I don’t know if it reached service.
You can see a photo with double rotor and dangling antenna earier in the thread.
Do not worry, nothing interesting for RN in ASIA.
PLA Navy KJ-600
PLA airforce AEW
Can the controllers on board get a combined radar picture with any f35’s in the air ? If so this would surely greatly increase the ability of crows nest
It might. We know that the RAF trialled that kind of facility on a Voyager under the Babelfish programme, “demonstrating a real-time Common Operational Picture”. Mike Wigston declared the Nexus combat cloud operationally ready in July last year.
Whether the Royal Navy adopted this tech for Crowsnest or if it’s doing its own thing, I don’t know. The tech is supposedly small enough to fit in a backpack (if you believe the marketing blurb), so it should fit in a Merlin.
HS-125 with AEW bulges or fixed dorsal radome was a ‘ drawing board’ project in the 60 -70s ?
It seems the CVA carrier died and so did the underlying projects ( but even then the E-2A/W2F-1 would have been the only rational choice)
Yes. I would say that even if we had gone CTOL it doesn’t mean we had to buy E2. We could have bought a fixed wing airframe and built our own system with more power and a big sensor array than rotor Crowsnest.
At the last public Defence Committee session it seemed as if the Army’s New Medium Helicopter programme had stalled. I don’t think this is a bad thing.
If we accept that the F35B is a joint asset between the RAF and Navy (“Lightning Force”) and given that there is already a Joint Helicopter Command then do we need to add AW149’s or Blackhawks into a programme that had as one of its aims a desire to reduce the types of helicopters in service across the armed forces? Instead, just as the army use Wildcats, do we build more Merlins and share between the services on the basis of need?
The social value is there, as presumably Yeovil would be involved (perhaps more so than AW159) and we could repurpose or be more “protean” as the situation dictates.
If we don’t go for more Merlins then I think we should just jump ahead to the “next gen” and look into the Valor as a cheaper Osprey, again to be used across army and Future Commando force.
You make an interesting point. I’d have thought Merlins too heavy for the Army’s requirements, so probably too expensive, but perhaps commonality and known quantity trumps all. The Poles are paying over £50m per unit for AW149. Ordered now, new Merlins would last another 20 years, and maybe they could all be replaced in the same programme around 2040-45. Comparing through life cost would be the sensible way to decide.
I doubt Valor will be operational in the US Army until around 2030. If we want a marinized version built under licence in Yeovil, 2035 seems more likely. It will be expensive, and making the argument that enough tiltrotors means we won’t have to go for cats and traps on the carriers (saving us £1bn+) is unlikely to be accepted, and the costs will be compared on a like-for-like basis. Unless we get the hike in budget we need, I can’t see us getting Valor this generation.
It about time the MOD went back to KISS for getting kit. The Seaking airframe was basic but delivered more than expected serving where ever demanded better than some of the more youthful types and of course easier to fix and keep in the air. Merlin is great at sea as it does not suffer as much impact from the environment and many systems are the same across the fleets as was the case with Seaking. More is needed to boost actual capability in the Merlin fleet as we need at least two units to serve both carriers at same time and have back up.
Just to compare, Japan spends much less than UK on Defence yet has a larger airforce, army and navy so where does the large difference go? On programs that never come to the front line.
Simple answer to that, nuclear deterrent.
Yes. And also Japan for political reasons used to hide some military related expenditure in other budgets to keep it around 1% ( which is also why they can now say they will have a big budget boost as its moved back into defence ), even so as their GDP is so much bigger than UK they spend very large amounts.
Nuclear weapons are cheap. And it could be argued that they are the only system permanently on the front line. Roughly a quarter of the budget goes on the boats with the rest going to Aldermaston. But no they are cheap. Didn’t Vanguard come in under budget and early? Our nuclear submarine programmes only started to faulter when the government started messing about; I think because there is little left to mess around with! If we didn’t if the bombers we wouldn’t have the SSN’s too. Never mind the spend in the UK high tech sector.
If we spent the Dreadnought budget for the 4 boats (including contingency) on QE class carriers, we’d have more strike carriers than the US Navy.
No crew. But loads of carriers.
Its not just the construction cost, the UK doesnt use ‘unit accounting’ for its defence purchases but a form of program accounting.
Remember the cost of the actual P-8 planes , which we know from US Navy annual contract buy and includes foreign military sales, was around a 1/3 of the ‘budget’ said by MOD that the planes cost
You are right, but extra costs for infrastructure, training, maintenance, setting up supply chain contracts, and generally moving the Dreadnoughts to operational are still costs that have to be paid. Too many people blame the carriers for overspend, but I agree with Okam.
Though I understand what you are saying there are reasons that such a program exists,
Merlin is such a large cab.
There is a lot of overlap with helicopter specs.
The UK has no need for Valor.
No need for Valor. What could we possibly want with an optionally manned V/STOL aircraft nearly twice the speed, range, endurance, payload and service ceiling of a medium-sized helicopter?
We can’t afford it, but we most certainly could use it.
Price like you said , footprint, the thing not even in a ship hangar can fit in.
AW101 is also too big too expensive, too maintenance intensive.
Valor is 4m shorter than a Merlin, and with wings folded would fit in an Arleigh Burke hanagar, according to Bell.
Shrunk to Seahawk size.
Let’s hope they are cheaper than MV22.
Valor do not fit in Arleight Burke in height, at least from the drawings i have seen.
Every helicopter is maintenance intensive .. without exception , maybe the merlins 3 engines increase that a bit
How do we squeeze it on to an escort?
Never mind the cost.
We need frigates that can carry Aster 30. We need a modern sensor for Crowsnest. We have lots of needs that are achievable we funding. But we can’t shrink something.
The marinized version (designed for the USMC, but not purchased) has an inverted tail to allow the wings to be rotated from side-to-side to front-to-back. That’s how it fits in an escort hangar. I’ve not seen the mechanism, but reports also talk about the wings folding.
One of the more interesting suggestions came from a recent article in Forbes, which thought the US Coast Guard might be interested in marinizing the V-280 for the Pacific cutters.
USCG has a mixed bag of airframes in that medium size.
I would rather have 24 new Merlin now rather than wait a decade for 12 Valor.
They all seem very complicated and very expensive.
We shall see.
I think we are on the same page additional Merlin’s should be considered.
If Merlin’s are not and the army wants a new helicopter we should consider jumping forward a generation to Valor for sharing with SF and FCF.
Valor kind of obviates the need for a dedicated LPH when you can deploy from say Prince of Wales on Valor’s. The Merlin’s now used for FCF can be repurposed to ASW/Crowsnest.
Yes. Our entire helicopter strategy is a mess.
If it were me as I have said here before we would have a flight of ‘troop transports’ and utility cabs with a close combat company (plus TAC HQ) embarked in the carrier anyway. The RN will never get another LPH and if the budget were available the money would be better spent on large fast LPDs. (Though those could be built with a flat-top……..)
You can bet repurposing Junglies to the ASW / AEW spec would be problematic as there always seems to be a problem with that sort of thing………..
Flat-top LST JMSDF Ōsumi-class tank landing ship…….
valour is a much smaller class – think Puma/Cougar at the 10 tonne class.
The merlin is a bigger volume /lift at the 26 troops 15 tonnes plus class
If I remember my tables it takes 34 Puma lifts to move a battalion and 18 for Chinook.
That’s the official “risk adverse” figures. Regularly moved 60 or more pax in Afghan by Chinook. Standing room only though. Don’t tell Easy Jet!
AW609 is ‘production ready now’ and in final stages for FAA certification and build in their Philadelphia plant
Its around 8 tonne class slightly less than the Valour but is pressurised and could be better for naval AEW as it can go 25,000ft – as always its the radar system thats missing
Bell and AW (now in Leonardo) split the IP from the Bell-Agusta joint venture. Bell got military and AW got civil. It’s a non-compete agreement and AW609 can’t be sold for military purposes.
The Valor has the same service ceiling of 25,000ft in level flight. The one given in the Wiki is the ceiling when hovering.
No chance of folding wings as wings contain driveshaft. However, they have factored in “marinisation” from the get go, it’s not an add on extra, so no reason that this could not be delivered for 2030.
MV-22 folds horizontally to fore and aft and thats the approach for other tilt rotors
This is the model of the navalised version of the Valor, that Bell are pitching to the USMC. It was displayed at Farnborough this year.
The model shows it will use the same prop-rotor folding and 90 degree wing twist as the Osprey. When folded like this it has a similar footprint to a Blackhawk/Seahawk.
Thanks for that .
The ‘bigger problem’ is the USMC doesnt have a troop lift requirement in the ‘Blackhawk’ class , which is why they never bought it. The old Sea Knight could carry more load and pax and the Osprey was designed around that, and the CH-47K is the biggest of them all and the low end requirement is their latest UH-1Y ( new builds, so will be around a long time)
Hi Mate, that was true in the past, but the USMC are now looking in a new strategic direction and have a requirement for two new aircraft. The first is to replace their UH-1Y Venoms (modernized Hueys) and secondly the AH-1Y/Z Viper (latest version of the Super Cobra).
The issues these two aircraft are facing is a lack of speed and range. They have to operate fairly close to an amphibious ship, as their combat range is pretty low. Also their cruise speed is low at 150 knots. Therefore, their time to target is pretty long. Which then means the ship has to operate close to the target. This is especially pertinent due to the USMC’s redirected focus, which is the Pacific and in particular the South China Sea. Where the ships will face a greater number of threats.
Therefore, one of the requirements is to have a similar speed and range to the Osprey, so that the ships have a further stand-off distance. But they also said the aircraft needed to have a similar “landing” footprint to the Venom. Which kind of means the Valor doesn’t qualify, as although its rotor disc area is shorter, it is quite a bit wider. So jungle or urban clearings could be a problem.
The Viper was going to be initially supplemented with an unmanned pairing, using a VTOL capable UAV. Then later replace it with a new aircraft. Bell was proposing the V-280 Vigilant for the unmanned aircraft. However, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Expeditionary or MUX for short, was cancelled as the program snowballed and tried to take on too many roles. Which the airframe and engine weren’t suited for. The USMC still have a need for a CAS aircraft. So we may still see a Vigilant derivative in the future.
The US Army’s future attack and reconnaissance aircraft (FARA). Which has been wheedled down to the Bell 360 Invictus and Sikorsky Raider X. These may be an indication of what replaces the Viper. Though in the long range and high speed requirements, the Raider beats the Invictus. Though neither aircraft come close to the Valor’s performance.
The US Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program has really thrown the cat amongst the pigeons. As the Army demanded a significant step change in capability over previous aircraft. The targets they set, were far beyond what a standard helicopter could ever achieve, hence Bell’s and Sikorsky’s approach.
To be brutally honest, industry and the World’s militaries, have been waiting to see how the FLRAA program progressed, but also who won. As this would determine the future direction of military VTOL and to some extent’s civilian aviation. Now that Valor has won, it will set the new benchmark of what the military require. As who would want second best? Especially as Valor, has nearly twice the cruise speed and three times the range of a standard Blackhawk.
The USMC has been an observer of the Army’s FLRAA program. As the spec’s match how they want to operate in the future. So I’d expect to see a navalised version being developed and wheeled out soon. Which will likely come into service after the Army version. So the Venoms will be around for a while yet.
It also leaves the heavy lift CH53K in a weird place. It is the most expensive helicopter and has only just come into service. But it is still constrained by its speed and to an extent its range. Which means for the heavy lift side of operations, the amphibious ships will still need to closer to the target. As the CH53 won’t be able to keep up with with an Osprey or Valor. I’ve not heard of any development aircraft in the pipeline to replace the CH47 Chinook or the CH53 King Stallion.
It will be interesting to see who the first export customer for the Valor will be? Especially as every other helicopter manufacturers vying for military contracts will have to compete against the Valor and play catch-up.
You cant wish away a long standing troop lift per plane requirement. Theres been no noise that they want too offload the MV-22 program or even reduce the future buys. If anything the longer range- higher speed requirement they made decades back that led to Osprey has been vindicated.
Its a weird obsession with this interesting plane that its going to sweep all before it
Thats how the MV-22 Osprey folds up
The long range -high speed mission is a specialised one, the USN/USMC arent going to be interested as they have the Osprey already
Thanks. That’s interesting to see.
What makes you think we can’t afford Valor? The U.K. is an observer on the program and the spec price point is $30m so with the potential 2000+ rollout no other medium helo will be cheaper.
production model and final stages of FAA cert and production in their US plant
8 civilian seats plus pilots
We can afford lots of things. Our government chooses to spend our money on other things. And decides that those things it doesn’t want to spend money on as too expensive.
Of course. But even with the Ukraine war happening the F-35B deliveries out of the initial 48 are being slowed. Its like the 4th branch of the armed forces where the smartest minds go is the “Financial Corps’ where they fight to save money even when its wasted.
if a EV-22 was ready and flying for US navy for their LHDs that would be a worthwhile buy, but its not.
The UH-60M is around $20 mill as a mature production line unit cost
“five-year multibillion-dollar deal to procure 120 H-60 Black Hawk helicopters to be delivered to the Army……..
The contract value for expected deliveries is approximately $2.3 billion ”
$30 mill seems way less than what Valours ( should get a rename as traditional they are indian tribes) could cost as they are going , higher, faster longer range, composite construction , 40% higher gross weight than UH-60, fly by wire.
Even will be using the Rolls engine used on Osprey ( change from T64 used on Chinook)
I cant see much change from $50 mill each as all these things are worthwhile but can be eye wateringly expensive
A great article here as to why Tilt rotors and niche and not particularly suited the missions our military undertake https://hushkit.net/2020/09/29/v-22-osprey-a-triumph-of-money-over-common-sense/
Whilst I’d love it for the US marines to lend us some for IFR and CSAR as part of the CSG (I heard they wanted to get rid of a few) I don’t see it happening.
Merlins the best ASW and SAR chopper in the world: it’s why the Norwegians are buying new ones. We should build more for those purposes (and replace the ones we have)
We should also buy the AW149. It will be cheaper, lots of countries will be replacing pumas and black hawks so that’s an opportunity. Commonality with Merlin by using the same engines.
Eventually lynx will need to be replaced by something bigger (AW149s would fit the bill.
Hi Grant, Hushkit’s analysis is missing one of the key fundamentals. Which is why the report is inaccurate. The Bell-Boeing V22 Osprey is a first generation tilt-rotor aircraft. But it was designed with a number of constraints that hamper it’s performance and in particular it’s hover performance.
The aircraft was designed specifically for the USMC, as a direct replace for the CH-46 Sea Knight (Mini-wokka). One of the key constraints that led to its inefficient hover performance, was that the aircraft must be capable of taxiing past the island of a Wasp class LHD. Whilst having the port undercarriage 3 ft from the flight deck’s edge
This meant the wing had to be shorter. But more importantly the prop-rotors were reduced in length. Therefore, to generate the necessary lift, the rotor speed must be faster. This has a knock effect on the aircraft’s disc loading. Which is determined by dividing the total aircraft weight by the rotor disc area. This is the area swept by the blades of a rotor.
The higher disc loading is a major factor as to why the Osprey struggles to auto-rotate. Making it highly dependent on air temperature and density. Therefore in the hover the aircraft uses more fuel, generates a bigger downdraught and lifts a smaller load. Which makes it less efficient in the hover compared to a helicopter.
The Bell V-240 Valor is a second generation tilt-rotor built with lessons learned from the Osprey. Most importantly both the wing and prop-rotors are proportioned correctly to the predicted and simulated max take-off weight.
This means that the Valor has a very near hover performance to a similar weight helicopter. Plus it can also autorotate when it loses engine power. The reason why it is only “nearly efficient” as a helicopter, is due to the wing presenting an obstruction to the downward airflow. The trailing edge flaps help, but the obstruction is only reduced.
It cannot be stated enough that the Valor is a game changer for VTOL aircraft. It is a capability leap that hasn’t been seen since helicopters replaced piston engines with turbo shafts. Due to its correctly proportioned wing and prop-rotors, It is significantly closer to a helicopter’s performance in the hover. With all the in-flight benefits of a fixed wing aircraft.
Absolutely right. The other thing he fails to take into account when comparing against helicopters and STOL fixed wing is that tiltrotors are V/STOL. Valor can increase payload using STOL when runways are available and still work with a reduced payload when they aren’t. That’s risk reduction over fixed wing and capability increase over helicopters.
The valour has the same fixed wing as the Osprey. I cant see the logic in your claims and the full auto rotate thing doesnt seem to be something that Bell says
. I see some sources mistakenly say the Osprey tilts its whole wing for vertical takeoff- it doesnt what they mean it tilts the engines and rotors while the Valour just tilts the gearbox and rotors leaving the engine foxed to the wing.
Of course the Osprey with around twice the troop capacity wouldnt be as capable as a smaller lighter higher powered/weight army tilt-rotor
We spunked twice that a pop on rubbish Wildcats.
And Merlin orders stopped when they found out they were costing more than the Frigate they operated off.
Here you go again… not making any sense
The next UK medium helicopter will be whoever won – so it’s Valor.
Despite making it, the UK hasn’t ordered a single new Merlin since the launch order nearly 25 years ago – it’s fundamentally crap.
That’s because the MOD is full of idiots rather than because the cab is ‘crap’. It’s excellent at what’s it’s designed for (a highly capable ASW and SAR helicopter).
It’s so ‘excellent’ no one but the two launch partners nought it. It’s performance is so marginal, you can’t fit anything to it without leaving something off. It’s much the same footprint as a Chinook with little more power than a Sea King sized cab.
Merlin is operated by 13 countries.
I remember the first time I saw one aboard Ocean. I was surprised the ship wasn’t listing to starboard. 🙂
UK downsizing military and cutting budgets since 25 years ago is the reason for that.
Plenty of others are buying them when a bigger helicopter than Blackhawk or NH90 is required ( but not as big as Chinook)
Nope, the Merlin is underpowered, it can’t be given more power as it’s rotor disk is too small and the gearbox can’t take more power. It’s what happens when you design a Sea King sized ASW helo, then graft on a hull big enough to take 24 troops to keep the Italian partner happy. The RAF were delighted to be rid of them – 25 years of service and development and it still stubbornly sits @Владимир Темников 50% availability.
Merlin is problematic. When you look at Sea King’s spec it really was (is!) a superb helicopter.
Doesnt need ‘more power’ unless there is a requirement and like many other helicopters, engine and gearboxes are often upgraded
the reasons you give, which superficially make sense, but could apply to say Chinook which has been upgraded since its EIS around over 50 years ago( very old tech then) and lifts much weight as an under slung load
of course the RTM-322 engine AW101 option , once a joint venture between Turbomeca ( Safran) and RR – now only a Safran product- is available in a more powerful version called Aneto.
having 3 engines allows one to be shut down on cruise and improve economy
Merlin Has been underpowered from the start, but it cannot be fitted with more powerful engines as – the gearbox is maxed out, it was originally designed only to take two engines- the rotor disc is too small – it’s a Chinook size airframe with a Sea King sized main rotor.
uncorrectable design faults.
I will also add need and want aren’t the same thing.
Canada just ordered 3 new AW 101 to add to their 13 CH-149 Cormorant.
SAR – NOT ASW.
Still 3 extra cabs.
Because most other navys prefer/only fit on board smaller twin helicopters with less range , such as the 10 ton Seahawk, the 11 ton NH-90 , not the 15 ton 3 engine AW101
Countries with very large EEZ tend to prefer AW101.
Portugal for example.
Yes SAR. Sorry to not be explicit.
What a thoroughly weird idea, that looks like something designed down the pub after one too many pints, on the back of a f*g packet and the radar analysts sit in the back of the helicopter, how do they manage that with all the noise and vibration.
Vibration cancelling is a feature
The comments on this story are somewhat laughable. ‘This capability is rubbish’ being the general gist. Compared to what? It almost certainly is the second best ship bourne AEW system in the world and the first (Hawkeye) obviously isn’t an option. In fact Hawkeye shows just how unaffordable ‘cats and traps’ would be: the French paid £1bn for three aircraft. And I am sure such a niche fleet has some incredible per hour flying costs.
One thing the story does reinforce for me is the need for more Merlin’s. We like to compare what we do to the US: the US if they have a platform that works they invest in and buy more. Much more cost effective and sensible then sone drone which is no more then a PowerPoint presentation but will be fully operational in 7 years…
What a stupid comment. It can still be poor even without a comparison. How does Hawkeye’s cost make an argument that CTOL is out of reach? Our government can find a billions when it suits their agenda. It isn’t a question of expense more the poor management of government spending by successive governments since the end of WW2 and accelerating through the seventies. We are either in the carrier game or not. We cannot in one instant say, ‘Look at Sampson best radar at sea’ and then in the next shrug our shoulders and say ‘Well Crowsnest is OK-ish’. AEW isn’t niche. It is probably the reason why we want a large aviation deck in the fleet. As was shown in 1982 in the missile age you cannot conduct a large operation safely without it. Never mind added tricks like mid-course correction for BVR missiles. Good grief have you started on the Christmas drinking early? Laughable? Yes you are.
A helicopter based AEW is the only option available to us. I agree it’s absolutely essential and with enough numbers to continue operations 24/7, which is why we should improve what we have (and by more Merlin’s) rather than pursue non existent Gucci kit we won’t be able to afford / doesn’t yet exist….
Good points . Normally lack of space in carrier is why so few AEW are on board and that isnt an issue for the 2 QEC when deployed.
The Merlin equipped with Crowsnest is the only option, available to us at the moment. In a few years time hopefully, the MoD’s RFI for the cat and trap will come to fruition and see one being fitted to each carrier. Which then opens up a lot more options.
True. But Crowsnest is poor. Barely adequate. It isn’t Gucci,
Agreed. The software might be good but it’s still a 1970’s Searchwater radar system.
Yep. As I have it OK pointing at Sampson or F35b’s radar and saying how good they are. But the radar keeping you whole task group safe is pants.
Every radar is limited by the radar horizon as the earth hasnt changed in curvature since the 1970s.
Get up higher and you can see much further.
However you seem to think that the ‘scanner is the radar’, when its the electronics behind it. Even the P-8 has a mechanical scanner still in its nose, and yes its ‘based on the predecessor’ like the Crowsnest!
APY-10 is an much improved update on the P-3A APS-80, was was made by Texas Instruments ( bought out by Raytheon)
The radar scanner continues to evolve – searchwater is behind the times it is nor AESA this limits its functionality, sensitivity and resilience to jamming. Yes the electronics and algorithms are important but what they can do is limited by what the scanner can detect. It does not mater if the actual radar is an AESA with mechanical positioning or entirely electronic scanned the key element is active electronic scanning with advanced beam forming with a high number of independent programable elements.
Searchwater has 2-3 passive elements and is very dated design, I doubt it could detect a stealth target at range no matter how good its new glossy front end is….
Down the page you are telling me the UK can deploy an independent blue water carrier strike group…………Yet here you are saying the UK doesn’t have the key system to do that………. Make your mind up Bobby.
The P-8 has a normal mechanical scanned radar dish too. Does that make it useless?
Agree if you are going to have a CSG you should not skimp on its protection. We should have never bought the Searchwater fir the Crowsnest. We should have got a modern AESA radar and investigated buying a V22 option for CSG supply and an AEW bolt on kit.
There is no MV-22 AEW bolt on kit. And zero chance of the USN paying billions to develop it.
If there was it would be snapped up , even if it was the cost of a P-8 , which in $US unit price is $125 mill each.
Meanwhile………..Italy getting a new hydrographic ship.
Fincantieri also delivered an icebreaker-oceanographic vessel to Norway in 2018, 100m and 9000 t. Building 3 of the above oceanographic types for Italy
it makes you weep sometimes
In a decade’s time the Italian’s will have the best navy in Europe with a sensible balance fleet with firepower. Perhaps they could do with 4 more submarines. And they too have an AEW / ASaC gap. New LPD’s to be built. They have everything. We have a bag of bits……….Not so much a curate’s egg more a curate’s omelette.
Costs are certainly making a tipping point in RN and a big impact on effective numbers.
I think the worse is the SSN quantity.
Yes. Even though more money has been spent on submarines than the carrier programme it can still be argued that we should have spent the money on SSN’s. The RN needs to decide whether it is sea control or a sea denial force.
More of your normal nonsense. Everyone’s navy is better than ours, except you cannot provide an accurate comparison to prove your point.
I don’t think I said everybody’s navy. Show me where I said that. All I said is that Italy will have the best navy in Europe. I think you mean more of your normal nonsens dull blade.
Their naval and related construction program and capability is certainly better than UK ( except subs where they build a german design which was a good choice)
Only now that the UK has revolving door governments like Italy does the longer term naval construction program seem stabilised ?
Them buying German submarines is only as bad as us buying say American airplanes, American missiles, and so on and so on.
Our plans across the board are now shaky.
Hehe, i like that: revolving door gov = good navy.
I did not see them deploying a Blue Water carrier Strike Group to Asia or mounting a continuous at sea deterrent.
Oh…….A blue water carrier strike group without decent ASaC / AEW. Hardly any FJ’s. Deficient escorts. Too small a fleet train. And all dependent on the US for a whole host of enablers.
You need to stop playing Top Trumps and have a think Bobby. You are right you don’t see much at all.
But the RN “global” capability only works for raiding/piracy/retaliation. There is no permanent sustainable capability.
Unless a proper carrier force can operate often RN is in the spot of heavy investment but not that much to show for it.
Trident is a bit outside “naval” capabilities.
I even cast doubt on raiding or retaliation. The US saw a MEU as a minimum to get anything done in the littoral and we don’t have anything close to that. Retaliation? As long as the US or that commercial company supply targeting data. If the UK had a small constellation of government owned recce birds and didn’t need a third party then yes we could performed ‘retaliation’ .
This graphic shows Italy’s SkyMED 2 Gen optical recce bird……..
We missed an opportunity by not fitting the proposed AEW variant of the F35 radar instead of the ancient Searchwater. This is basically an old system with a new front end. Very disappointing and I doubt it has much of a capability against new generation stealth targets. We should have got a AESA radar and not settled for warmed over obsolescence.
A V22 platform would have been much better than Merlin. The sooner we get a modern system the better. If this is such a vital component of the CSG why did the MoD skimp on funding and save money on an old system.
There was no realistic chance of the Lockheed development with the Raytheon F35 radar being developed into a workable system . Look how long Lockheed s taken for the F-35 development and UK experience of Lockheeds other programs arent good.
There are other AESA options out there we should have picked one….
No there isnt . just calling a search and rescue radar ‘an option’ doesnt make it so. They needed a working system soon and the memories of the Nimrod AEW is seared in many minds. If it was easy the other F-35B navies would have lined up to buy your pick.
Isn’t the V-22 a bird without pressurisation?
Working on masks not very nice for long hours of screen reading.
Yes. It seems the high altitude capability – say 20,000 ft- is only useful for self deployment with the crew only for long flights where the max range is required
For a start, LM did not in the end offer the F35 radar but an Israel radar. The two options were compared side by side and Searchwater was the better of the two and thirdly don’t even go there on cost comparison. I agree wrt to V22
LM NEVER offered the F-35 radar back in 2012. It was a typo by some news sites to say APG-81
They did offer the then F-16 radar for the latest Block 60/ 70 models the APG-80