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David Holmes

In a war situation would not these helicopters with their radar systems be a week link

Predannack

In what way? The Falklands war proved the need for AEW and 2 Sea Kings were rapidly converted, traveling south just after the war in HMS Illustrious. They were so successful 849NAS was stood up and had 2 flights operational until the Sea King was retired a few years back. (i think the flights became 854 & 857 for a time)

X

How so? Crowsnest is probably the most important system the carriers will, um, carry.

More money should have been thrown at the system by far.

It is only weak link in a sense that wasn’t done.

Jack65

Indeed, we opted for the simpler and cheapest option available instead of going with the far superior system offered by Lockheed Martin.

X

It is more important than the bomb truck. It’s the keystone to any task group.

Ron5

In what way was the Lockheed system superior? It was never demonstrated, they only flew the empty pods to show sufficient cooling.

Challenger

Nothing is 100% foolproof but in a war situation a layered defensive approach around the carrier-group with F35’s on CAP further out and a missile umbrella further in would make it incredibly difficult for an enemy to take them out.

Sonik

It’s another example where an 80% capability is much, much, better than nothing at all. The project has run badly and it’s late, but in terms of what’s being delivered it’s probably the best we are realistically able to get. E2D is obviously better, but it’s not really feasible for RN. And as others have noted, with F35 sensors, and possibly drones in future, there are other ways to achieve equivalent coverage.

Last edited 24 days ago by Ben Robins
Rob N

It is just a shame that the Searchwater on the Crowsnest is already legacy technology. The original Searchwater dates back to the 1960s! Todays offering is a little more powerful with better processing and a funky front end but it is at heart old technology. We were offered an AEW version of the F35 radar with AESA and full multimode operation. However we opted for ‘new obsolescent’ technology… was it jobs for the boys or just the lowest bidder – who can tell. The sooner we develop a replacement the better. Perhaps we could use a AEW version of the Radar 2 that will go on the Typhoon. That would be SO much better.

As folk have pointed out AEW is a vital part of the CSG defence, it is just mad it was not given more funding so we had to get such a system….

Well at least we have something even if the core technology is looking to clam its bus pass….

Sonik

I think overall crowsnest is a stop gap.

Yes it’s done a bit on the cheap, but it’s not worth wasting money, on something gold plated, when there are many new possibilities not so far out on the horizon. It’s a case of holding on, until things like networking and unmanned systems, can provide an equivalent or better solution.

Without being privy to the decision making process, it’s impossible to say if we got here by accident or by design. But it’s where we are none the less.

Last edited 24 days ago by Ben Robins
Rob N

P.S. the Chinese were sold radars from the cancelled Nimrod AEW3. This technology was used to develop the line of radars leading to the current Searchwater. This means that the Chinese have an intimate understanding of the original core system. They have probably worked out how to jam it already….

Duker

Who says that. Once QE sails between Taiwan and the Chines coast they will have their signals planes mapping all the ships radars

Sonik

I find that very hard to believe. Besides, I doubt we are planning to start a war with China.

Last edited 24 days ago by Ben Robins
Rob N

I do not think we are planning to start a war with anyone. However conflict with China is not impossible. A quick scenario… China decides to invade Taiwan – the USA gets pulled into her defence and calls on her closest partner to help. The UK offers a carrier group. Thus we are in a shooting war with China. Not too unlikely. All we have for AEW is a repackaged Searchwater 2000 that the Chines have a good knowledge of tganks to their previous purchases.

As I say the quicker we can swap out Searchwater for a modern radar the better. Then we can start thinking of getting a VTOL platform to take a bigger sensor package higher. A V22 variant with a modified AEW Radar 2 would be a vast improvement and be able to spot the latest threats at decent ranges.

David Broome

I completely agree. V22 for AEW and COD would have been ideal given commonality with the USMC/USN. I am also hoping against hope that we’ll get a second trache of 48 F35B for 7 frontline sqaudrons and 12 for operational conversion.

Last edited 21 days ago by David Broome
Supportive Bloke

Yes, they were sold the radars.

The actual electronics, as opposed to the concepts, will now be very different.

That was a very long time ago: things move very fast in digital electronics!

https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/aew-prc.htm

“ Britain’s Marconi apparently sold at least one example of its Argus radar from the cancelled Nimrod AEW program, which China placed on a modified Russian Ilyushin Il-76 transport. Then in the mid-1990s Britain’s Racal Co. sold six of its Skymaster lightweight naval airborne early warning (AEW) radar, which still fly on the PLA Navy Air Force’s Y-8J aircraft. Ostensibly sold to help China “combat piracy,” by 1999 the Y-8J was observed in exercises providing long-distance cuing for ship-launched anti-ship missiles….”

Scot

Honestly, this just shows the continued decline of the Royal Navy. Just looking for another cheap solution. Instead of what is really needed

Scot

That said, a good compromise would be the Osprey with the Vigilance System. Which, could use the same APG-81 AESA Radars from the F-35B’s. This is also a plug a play system. So, the Royal Navy could use a pool of aircraft. Which, is needed anyways. As they need Ospreys for the COD and Tanker Roles too! https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/defense/2011-11-18/lockheed-martin-offers-bolt-multi-mission-sensor-system

Gunbuster

Nothing is plug and play with regards to weapon and sensor systems. Whoever came up with that bit of bollocks needs to try integrating said “Plug and Play” systems into existing vessels and aircraft.
Plug and Play is a 5v USB plug. All military systems are just a little but more complex than that.

X

Careful. They lover their modularity and mission bays here.

Sonik

WRT to plug-and-play I think you are right. That needs open international cooperation and complete standardisation of interfaces – the proprietory, national level, secretive development of military systems tends to work against that.

That said, there is nothing preventing systems being built that can be moved between platforms. Danish did it with Stanflex? Not true plug and play though; perhaps a better expression would be pre-integrated? Of course the danger here is, politicians and other key decision makers won’t understand the subtle but fundamental difference between the two.

Last edited 24 days ago by Ben Robins
Supportive Bloke

You mean Plug and Pray?

Sonik

Exactly

Meirion X

Ospreys are difficult to operate and maintenance heavy. V247 Valor would be better for the RN.

Jon

V280 Valor is the manned one they are trying to sell to the US Army, V247 Vigilant the unmanned one aimed at the USMC. I like the look of the marinized version of the Valor with the inverted tail, and the stats look good too, but it will need a lot work to make it into something operational. I think the Vigilant would be the right way to go for AEW, but it may be too small to provide mission tanking. It would be nice if we had one tiltrotor for both jobs.

It looks like the RN is going down the route of fixed wing drones and catapults instead.

Last edited 22 days ago by Jon
Andrew Deacon

The f35 based radar was only considered by Lockheed Martin, in the end their losing proposal was based on 2 Elta designed aesa radars hung on either side of the merlin but it lost out mainly based on the risk and limited timespan required.

Robert Blay

So much better, and also so much more expensive. like, a lot more expensive.

Nick

Surely this role is a much better fit for a drone, relaying the raw data straight to all nearby ships? Fuel use would be vastly lower and endurance much greater.

Last edited 24 days ago by Nick
X

How so? Why do many here always think drones will be smaller and cheaper? You would only be swapping the crew out and then adding more kit in their place.

James Fennell

Correct, it is for any persistent surveillance task – we just need to build one to operate from a carrier first! Next gen will be a UAV after the Merlin OSD (2030+)

Last edited 24 days ago by James Fennell
Meirion X

My concern here again, is the security of the data signal, which can be jammed. At least with a manned system, information can be radioed though on other channels.

Nick

Which can’t also be jammed? They are all radio signals at the end of the day. The way you avoid jamming is the same for all of them.

Ron5

“relaying the raw data straight down to the ships”

Trivial problem in your mind no doubt, but in the real world.

Sonik

The question that will always elicit a groan from any engineer:

‘couldn’t you just…?’

And people wonder why engineers are cynical!

Last edited 23 days ago by Ben Robins
Meirion X

Remember that direct signals can be jammed.

Nick

Yes signals can be jammed, but that applies to communications from the Crowsnest helicopters as well. There are technologies like frequency hopping and so on to avoid jamming, but if it is broad-spectrum enough to stop the use of frequency-hopping for the radar signal they will stop anything coming down from Crowsnest as well. Basically if Crowsnest is viable and the necessary technology is present, drones would be viable as well.

Michael Haney

The three Crowsnest Merlins that will accompany the CGS21 deployment.”. In this sentence why is it CGS21 instead of CSG21, I have seen these used somewhat interchangably yet I have assumed it was “Carier Strike Group”?

Michael Haney

Thanks

Cam

we Clearly knew what it meant, why does everyone always Fudging spell check on the Net… And yes Fudging replaces another word I would like to use.

Michael Haney

I was just curious, as in several other places it has been spelt “CGS” and I wanted to know if this had a different meaning.

Cam

Ok sorry mate 👍

Derek

I think sometimes they they use CG as a prefix to then differentiate their current deployment mode.

CGS Carrier Group – Strike
CGLM Carrier Group – Littoral Maneuver
CGPUIP Carrier Group – Pi**ed up in local Port
etc …. ✌️

Supportive Bloke

It is interesting seeing the cooling system and the main power amplifier in the second photo down.

The fluid reservoir (black box with handles on it) and hydraulic coolant pump (with the dials on it) look like they were recycled from the previous version!

Also interesting to see how small the high power amplifier (black lump top front with the give-away HV stickers on it) is compared to the cooling system.

Duker

Isnt this taking ‘for but not with’ to new heights?

Modify 30 choppers but only have 10 kits. Wont it in reality mean 10 will be modified during overhaul at base and 3 will used each serious deployment and will keep the equipment until another major overhaul.
The idea of interchangeable with all Merlins as required wont be workable…shortages of personnel etc etc

Sonik

Helicopters need a lot more routine maintenance and overhaul than fixed wing aircraft, so I guess the idea is to maximize availability. IIRC the Crowsnest kits can be swapped between airframes in just a few hours, could even be done on board the carrier.

Last edited 24 days ago by Ben Robins
Cam

Really? In just a few hours, the kit looks pretty dam hearty…

Sonik

I may be exaggerating a little but I believe that’s the idea. The airframes will all be pre-wired, so everything is in place, ready for the kit to be fitted.

https://www.navylookout.com/crowsnest-the-strike-carriers-eye-in-the-sky/

From the article:

‘Theoretically, the Crowsnest kit can then be installed in any Merlin in […] around 24 hours, either ashore at RNAS Culdrose or in […] the QE class aircraft carriers’

Last edited 24 days ago by Ben Robins
Cam

Ah right

Timber16

It will take a minimum of 24 hours to swap from merlin MkII to CROWSNEST, but thats in facttory conditions. Put it on a Carrier and you’ll be looking at 5 days to a week.

Grant

Great article as always. Why only 3 crew? Surely these missions will be of long duration and 4 would allow for rest.

A real shame the defence review didn’t add some much needed additional Merlins to cover off this role properly.

Mike D

Absolutely! Pilots can get incapacitated and an expensive asset like this should have 2 pilots

Sonik

Surprised me too. Are they short of pilots perhaps?

Jack65

Surprised many, there is no excuse for not having a co-pilot in these birds.

Sonik

Is it possibly to do with endurance? Can’t imagine the weight of a fourth crew member would make much difference to the fuel consumption though. Seems risky having just one pilot.

Cam

It’s probably a money thing…

Jim

30 Merlin sized helicopters is just not enough for their uses. Alas, too often MOD fails to order at the right time – more Merlins ordered 10 years ago would have placed osdin line with the new American helicopters coming online, Challenger upgrade to smooth bore 10 years ago would have meant replacement of Chally2 just as nato allies are agreeing on next gen gun size – rather than the risk with upgrading now that allies will move on just as we complete upgrade

As for Crowsnest, its just good to get something in place ahead of far east deployment – but only 10 sets on 30 airframes is a worry. Would rather have had a fixed wing asset (Altitude, range, crew comfort), but that is currently out of question following the decision that although MOD stated carriers were adaptable, them and developers didnt actually bother doing anything about it.

Hopefully drones or low orbit (both with data link) will come on stream soon.

Cam

We shouldn’t even upgrade chally 2s (even Though I do love them black knights) but We should keep them as are and get involved in the next Euro tank…

Sonik

I agree, too little, too late and not enough of them to be useful. The only real value perhaps is as a learning exercise for the next generation.

Cam

Yeah, have a few experimental tanks. But what’s the dam point with so few…Even if they were “super amazing beast “ tanks there just isn’t enough for anything but a token force. Is that what we need or want?

Ron5

Yes.

Sonik

Even as an experiment, there is an argument for maintaining a certain mass – albeit a token one.

Capabilities are very, very difficult to regenerate once gone – as we have seen with carrier strike. So perhaps it’s about maintaining a small base of key skills and procedures as much as the equipment itself.

Seems to me that MOD are not sure about the future of tank warfare so want to keep the option open, without committing too much expense. Bit like most things at the moment!

Cam

Makes sense to keep the Army in the heavy armour game.

Ron5

Only 10 sets is a problem?? How many AEW aircraft do you think carriers need for goodness sake.

Cam

Well Merlins endurance is 5 hours and that’s 5 takeoffs a day for 24hr coverage, so we need half the crowsnest fleet or more aboard just to give crews and the choppers a break and if sh!t hits the fan and we need them constantly airborne we might scrape by.

Last edited 23 days ago by Cam
X

Plus the ability to have two groups of AEW cabs at sea would be helpful.

Sonik

They probably went for 10 sets on exactly that basis.

It’s more than enough for a single CSG and in the unlikely event we get into a situation needing to send both carriers (without USN support) then all bets are off anyway.

Shortage of Merlin is the bigger issue IMO.

Cam

And there’s always around 5 Merlins in maintenance so leaves 25 for all operations… what a joke, I hope we do upgrade the last 8 Merlins in storage to hm2 standard as we need them.

OkamsRazor

If this is such a joke could you advise who has more?

Cam

We did.

Dave G

They don’t need more than 10 sets, the rest of the 30 in the fleet are doing ASW…. the reason for fitting all for is so they can switch aircraft between squadrons if it becomes necessary.

Cam

There’s always five in maintenance so 25 to choose from.

Challenger

Good news it will be deploying with the CSG this year but it’s still staggering how long it’s going to take to reach full operating capability. I remember reading the decision to put Crowsnest onto existing Merlin’s around 2009!

It’s a shame 849 NAS was dissolved as i’d have thought AEW requires specialist skills and training that would be best delivered in a focused unit even if it’s sharing the wider Merlin fleet.

Cam

Is it just a money problem that these assets take so long?

Sonik

In this instance, for once it isn’t. The contractor screwed up.

Cam

Thanks Sonik nice to know.

Ron5

Thales UK to be precise.

Cam

Ah right, it’s Frenchies fault, thought so. Actually Is Thales uk a British company?

Sonik

LM are involved too. Not sure there is such thing as a ‘french’ or ‘british’ defence company these days, they all seem to be multinational.

Timber16

LM provide the mission system, Thales provide the Tactical data Link Capability.

Andrew Deacon

Its what used to be Racal which Thales bought in 2000

Cam

It’s actually kind of embarrassing…. And why deflate and inflate when it really doesn’t make much difference in size? Surely those inflated deflate systems cost more money to inspect, replace, service.

Last edited 24 days ago by Cam
Supportive Bloke

Probably due to reducing the windage and therefore the turning moment in straight flight?

The cost of a compressor and regulator with a couple of solenoid valves is going to be peanuts.

I don’t think they would do it if it wasn’t necessary.

Sonik

Maybe due to weight as well. The dome is attached well over one side so it must have a significant effect on COG. Inflatable bag is much lighter than an equivalent rigid dome, is less of a barrier to the sensors, and positive air pressure keeps out moisture and contamination, even if the bag gets damaged.

Last edited 24 days ago by Ben Robins
Cam

“Peanuts” I bet it cost the Mod billions 😆

X

comment image?v=v40

Cam

Cheers

Ron5

The Italian AEW variant doesn’t work and isn’t used.

X

Sources Ronald 5. Sources……….

X

And the photo was answer about form. To keep up Ron5. Nurse will be a long soon to take the interweb off you for another week.

Ron5

Is there no end to your criticisms based on ignorance??? Anyone would be forgiven for thinking you a troll.

X

No Ron5 trolling is your job. And you are neither entertaining or good at it.

Cam

Cheers Ron, and no I don’t live under a Bridge. And it’s called FREE SPEECH and I try to learn new things that I’m interested in on here.

borg

As an onlooker and occasional contributor here….. I would suggest taking a long look in your Trolling Mirror Ron mate. You have a long and incredibly detailed history of trolling those who dare to offer different views, Facts and Truths. At least X has an abundance of the three latter traits.

Sonik

It’s perfectly ok to disagree, that’s healthy debate. But feeding trolls with a response only encourages them surely?

Last edited 23 days ago by Ben Robins
Deep32

It’s been a long running issue, which was for a time linked to the voting option until it was removed in the refresh a few months ago. The trolling sort of quietened down for a while after that, but, appears to be gaining momentum again!!
It makes for some interesting comments if nothing else!!!

borg

Yes, Ron 5 stopped posting for a while but has returned now sans the down vote option.

borg

Yes, you are correct….. I must learn not to respond now that the Trolls have ceased to post stupid stuff on here….. my bad.

Sonik

To be fair it’s not always a bad thing to call out blatant misinformation. As Deep32 said it sometimes makes things interesting!

X

A few sentences and / or a couple sources would help.

Just barbed comments with a heavy hint of hubris don’t really make for good conversation.

And he doesn’t just do it here or UK Defence Review I have seen him other places too.

Andy a

Can I ask does the crows nest get monitored internally in the merlin or is it transmitted to the carrier? Do the have the ability to bounce and share with assets?
Also is there a reason we don’t just use a basic drone like the “fire” drone I think it’s called on some American destroyers? Or one of the many rotor wing drones about or even a tethered drone that could sit above carrier indefinitely with cable link? Surely would have been cheaper and just as good or better

Duker

Yes good point
Fire Scout. You wouldnt want it operating directly above as it sits at a high altitude and might show the carriers location, but even 15-30nm away is good
comment image

Last edited 24 days ago by Duker
Cam

I’ve always thought about a radar drone, That hovers a mile or so above a frigate or destroyer Giving a huge radar advantage.

Ron5

Exactly what a Crowsnest is built to do.

Cam

Really Ron5 I dint know that!., And I’m on about something like the ball on Sampson Radar taking off and hovering well above the vessel, maybe attached by wire to provide power and data…

Last edited 23 days ago by Cam
Ron5

The radar returns are interpreted by onboard observers who act as fighter controllers. Old term but descriptive. Condensed information (location, speed, direction) about targets are transmitted to other ships in the group via standard NATO data links.

Jamie

Does the Italian Navy plan to introduce this system or do they already have a solution?

Sonik

I think Italy are developing something similar but based on a home grown radar. Perhaps a collaboration opportunity missed especially given UK/IT links in both helicopters and radar. But always easy to judge in hindsight.

X

No. I posted a pic of the Italian system the other day. I think they are happy with what they have.
comment image

Ron5

Most decidedly not. The Italian system does not work.

X

Once again Ron5 the Sourcelss rebuts someone else’s comment with no sources.

borg

does it not ?

X

And we await for a source or explanation yet again from Ron5.

AlexS

Ron5 is correct, The Italian AEW(modified anti ship radar of normal Italian AW-101) was taken out and the helis modified to other missions. One of the reasons was the height limit of antenna below the belly but there were several other issues). Basically they wanted to do it on the cheap and failed.

X

Thank you. Now why couldn’t have Ron5 thrown a few lines together like that?

We are doing it on the cheap and are only just about managing a no score draw.

Phillip Johnson

Why only 1 pilot?

borg

Funny enough, quite a few Airframes only have one pilot.

Deep32

Possibly to save weight thus gain endurance! Only a guess mind..

Ron5

Why not?

Cam

Well survivability is a huge part… If one pilots injured in battle or is taken Ill the other can take over, there should always be two pilots when the aircrafts loaded with people anyway Merlins take 35 at a push…well not the ASW version obviously.

X

I am sure the “observer” could just about land it…..

Cam

I know this might be a Stupid question, but the Radome already on the merlin, how good is that? and can’t they combine the two into one?

Sonik

That’s not a stupid question, the airframes own radar points forward (Vs down for the bag) but I guess like you hinted it would depend on the quality of the array if that can add anything useful to the range.

Cam

Cheers Sonik

X

I have post two pictures of the Italian AEW Merling. It is achievable.

Cam

Yeah that was interesting to see. Wonder why RN didn’t go with similar. Already had the bag system from seaking, so cheaper?

Last edited 23 days ago by Cam
X

I think so. Integrating things can be difficult.

Phillip Johnson

This turned up on the MROSS Royal Navy to get new multi-role ocean surveillance ship – Naval Today Crew of 15? Sounds like a small seabed support vessel from the oil industry..

Cam

The crowsnest chopper could do with a new paint job, it looks like crap, it looks worn out to be fair…

borg

A lot of our kit looks the same, just take a look at the two carriers.

Cam

The wildcats mainly always look good though. Nick some of their paint… And why all the different shades of grey on the carriers deck looks like crap too lol, I know heat paint was put in some parts but there’s 10 different colours .

Last edited 23 days ago by Cam
X

Ship husbandry is low priority now it seems. These days young sailors don’t join to chip and paint. There always seems to be a discussion over whether sailors should even do their own cleaning now.

J Jacks

AN AESA radar would have been the best solution, but the MOD decided they wanted the cheapest option with the least risk and earliest delivery date. Not a bad idea but that did not work as there have been delays, damage to a loaned out Merlin and I expect cost over runs.

I find it incredible how much equipment is needed for the radar inside the Merlin and I haven’t seen the operator consoles yet. I think it would be a huge task to swap between helicopters. Why didn’t they do permanent fit in the Mk1’s that are in storage.