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John Clark

So far so good, another piece of the Carrier Strike puzzle falls into place.

Harry Nelson

Why is the “bag” on the opposite side when compared with the Sea King??


Seakings door was on the starboard side, mounted there so that the aircrew could easily see its status when landing. Merlin has doors on both sides.


How many years to bolt an existing radar onto an existing air-frame. Has the delay been down to the familiar practice of the MoD deferring contracts to save a penny today but pay a pound later on? Sure it will be very capable but 30 helicopters to provide ASW and AEW is dangerously few. Seems having even a small reserve to account for attrition has fallen out of fashion!


Considering the original one was rushed into service in months, and this version is not a lot better, i suspect its partially delaying the purchase and partially maintaining jobs. Bright side is now they have done this test, it demonstrates the system works and so if needed it could be rushed into service.


Er, no Steve this one is a lot better! Firstly it bares virtually no commonality with the Seaking AEW MK.2 rushed into service in 1982. For that matter the Seaking AEW MK.2 had actually started development prior to the Falklands conflict, it had been cancelled until events in the South Atlantic forced a quick rethink and restart crash development programme. The Seaking AEW MK.2 used the Thorn-EMI ARI 5930/3 Searchwater radar but lacked a modern mission system or data links relying on fighter controllers to use their experience to share their information over the Radio. In later years during joint exercises with the E3D Sentry and Link16 equipped fighters the Seaking controllers were often told to f*** off when they tried to offer information over the Radio.

The Seaking ASaC.7 is completely different beast using a new radar the Searchwater 2000AEW, this was combined with the Cerberus mission system that used full touch screen colour consoles, a modern IFF system, up to date radios, data links including Link.16 and JTIDS. The new radar had 300% more transmit power than the old one with much better clutter suppression and can provide overland tracking, as well as air and surface tracking. The new radar scanner could change its tilt angle between each rotation, producing an elevated pulse envelope beam to locate high altitude contacts on its first rotation, followed by a pulse Doppler beam on its second rotation to track contacts within the radar horizon. A further scan in either littoral or open-sea mode can then track surface contacts. This flexibility gives the new system a capability that is a quantum leap ahead of the fairly primitive radar system on the AEW MK.2.

Cerberus could process 250 of its own tracks from the radar plus another 300 via the data links. When it fully entered service in 2004 the Seaking ASaC.7 was one of the most advanced AEW&C types available.

Crowsnest is a development of that already very credible system, to suggest it is little better than Seaking AEW MK.2 is laughable!

Rob N


Out of interest why is the new system not AESA? That appears to be a bit backward thinking considering many new systems use AESA with multimode beam scanning. Out ‘new’ system appears olf fashioned… and potentially less capable. Did the existing company get the new contract to save joss—-?


The reason it was chosen instead of the AESA radar from the f35, which was an alternative, appear to be based on low risk option. Yes its better as an overall system than the 80s version but its tried and tested equipment being placed into an airframe, the time line seems excessive for this to me.


Simply because this was the cheaper option, with the excuse given that it was low risk! As it turns out, it has a few problems that are proving very difficult to fix ………perhaps we might be seeing yet more millions poured down the drain. .


I would suggest that the 10 Mk1 airframes sat in a hangar at Culdrose would be better suited to carry ‘the Bag’ if only funding could be found to get them back into service! Surely they don’t have to be Mk2 ASW capable to do this (get flying again)? The Mk7s weren’t!


Purely as a matter of idly curiosity. Is it capable of, and is there any point to, using both radars simultaneously?


Is it actually good enough to fend off Russian and Chinese aircraft. Almost certainly not.


I hate to say it but we need to move away from thinking that we can compete with China or Russia. We have a handful of (admittedly capable) navy ships and fighter aircraft. In a conventional war against either we’d be buggered very quickly. The biggest block against our armed forces being more capable is that MOD capability isn’t a political vote winner most of the time.


Well under what conditions do you imagine the UK would be on its own against Russia/China?

Ronnie Farnsworth

Never, the vastly more Powerful and capable US Navy will lead that major fight !! Thank God !!


Maybe. More likely they’ll put their tail between their legs and run like they normally do.


Really?! What evidence do you have for that statement?

Aaron The Humanist

Could there be any conceivable situation where Russia or China would attack a British asset? An attack on any NATO country is an attack on all. Either way, the escalation potential is huge.


I suspect the more realistic scenario is that we go against an emerging state that has brought russian or chinese hardware, as happened in Iraq (inc US gear), Afgan (same) or our own gear such as Falklands.

A head to head against a major power seems unlikely.


Well done, you bothered to actually read what I wrote, Russian and Chinese aircraft not nations.
But if China choses to attack POW in the south China sea or Russia attacks in the black sea, whatcha gonna do about it?


A lot!
The POW wont be down there with no armament or escorts.

Bobs Baradur

If someone could invent a way to launch heavy a/c off a carrier, they could make a mint.


Depends on the Aircraft that the Russians and Chinese are deploying.


Couldn’t we use drones or helium balloons with radar’s? Merlin’s seem expensive targets.

Rob N

We already have a solar powered persistent drone in the works. There are also plans for a new UK radar satellite. Do not forget that the Merlin is not the only RN helicopter.

Also F35 will be able to feed its radar picture into the carrier and to T45s.



About five years ago the Airlander 10 hybrid airship was earmarked for radar trials, but the MOD bailed for some reason. The current airship has at least 5 days worth of persistence and cruises at 50kts. It has a limited altitude of only 20,000ft which would limit its radar horizon compared to the E2D. Compared to a Melin equipped with Crowsnest, the airship would provide longer duration patrols, but could also do electronic surveillance concurrently. Shame it didn’t go anywhere as it would have made in theory an ideal maritime surveillance platform, although I’m not sure how it would cope with the weather when it gets a bit blowy.

Rob N

The MoD are working on the Zephyr drone that is solar powered and can stay on station for weeks from the edge of space…. should be able to cover a CVBG. Also there are plans for a new UK ocean radar satellite. Both these systems could provide carrier early Warning and possibly over the horizon targeting.


There are two problems with both of those solutions. The Zephyr T which is in construction has a greater max all up weight than the current S version. It will not be able to produce the electrical power requirements that a decent radar and data-link require. The current missions for it are communications relaying and visual/IR surveillance. To generate the required power would need another form of electrical generation such as a chemical engine and generator which would add significantly to the aircraft’s weight, which would then prevent it from reaching above 60,000ft and thus immune to the weather.
The current NovaSAR that was made by the Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd uses a D band radar operating at 3.2GHz which gives a resolution of 6m over a swath of 15 to 20Km. This is enough to detect ships and perhaps have a degree of identification. The future planned radar is expected to operate in the X band. Very little data has been released about its performance capabilities. At this centimetric frequencies target identification can be carried out and using SAR techniques a low to medium resolution photo like image can be generated. These frequencies are very good for detecting smaller targets such as aircraft and missiles, especially using top down searching. However, to generate the same range as a D band radar at least 4 times the power is required due to atmospheric losses. If the satellite was put in low earth orbit at 330Km above mean sea level it would have the same horizon view as the International Space Station which means it will have a very large view window. Therefore, like the NovaSAR to keep the weight down, it will only be a front end radar transmitter/receiver, with all the signal processing done at a ground station. They did mention using an array measuring 3m x 1m which means the radar may be a PESA or an AESA thus it can be controlled using digital beam forming. This means it should have good clutter rejection as well high speed sector searching. Due to the large area of coverage it will still take a relatively long time to do a complete window search. However, it’s a satellite and will probably be fixed in a geostationary orbit most likely over the North Atlantic. This would make more sense than a geosynchronous orbit as the datalink would need to be relayed to a number of ground stations for signal processing. To cover the rest of the World we would need a lot more satellites. Perhaps, if that’s the case these should be a NATO asset. This would mean that NATO would help fund the program. It would also be beneficial to Australia and New Zealand and other “friendly” countries.
I think we are still a long way off having a satellite provide the AEW element required both for the Navy, Airforce and Army . Therefore in the meantime and near future, we still require an embedded solution such as the E7 Wedgetail and an better solution than Crowsnest that has better range.

Ronnie Farnsworth

Another poor choice by the RN/MOD and Government base on “Money” again !!
Old tech, the USA offered a better option with their radar tech !!
Well just like the Carriers “Would” have been a better choice with “Cats & Traps” CATOBAR.
With F-18E/F, later F-35C, E-2D Hawkeye and Merlin helos !!
Just like noted British Carrier expert and Author “David Hobbs” said in his book,
The British Carrier Strike Fleet After 1945′


The Lockheed Martin version of Crowsnest, rejected in favour of the cheaper ‘bagged’ option, was a far superior option, but as per usual the UK opted for the cheapest option available based on the fact it was ‘less risky’. I just hope the bean counters are out there if a shooting war starts, although no doubt our carriers will be in company with an American carrier battle group and be protected by US E2Ds!