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What an F’ing cockup from the MoD and the suppliers. No wonder you blokes over in the old country can’t build any major Defence equipment without cost over runs or even under budget these days.

andy reeves

thats because the M.O.D CAN’T see past the BAE/MBDA catalogues. and being too snobbish to use stuff that everyone else is using.

Ian Skinner

what ever happened to the 12 Merlin airframes stripped of spares; I heard it would be more expensive to put these back in service than to buy new aircraft.

Flip flop

They’ve been stripped

Just shells sitting in RAF Shawbury

Another waste

4th watch

We’ve been stripped! They should be replaced by 12 or more new ones immediately.

andy reeves

not going to happen.


What hasn’t been stripped!


I believe roughly 8 of those Merlin’s where still in a semi-decent state until recently as I remember the RN fighting for some of them to be tagged onto the HM2 upgrade program roughly 5 years ago.

Clearly that point has long past and it seems they have been further stripped for spares down to basically being empty shells.

Even 8 kept at HM1 standard for Crowsnest duties would have been a major boost. Such a wasteful shame!


What the hell! It’s crazy how the procurement process works with the MOD! We need to shake things up and get some fresh faces and brains into tne a Mod to make better decisions. And how good is crowsnest?


Agreed. I think we need to get some fresh thinking throughout the Government and Civil Service about how we plan and execute everything to do with defence. I am a simple layman and can see this.
‘How good is it?’ my understanding is that it’s good, but not the best. The gold standard is the E2 the US and French use but we can’t have this as we went with the STOVL Carrier option (another error IMO to make short term cost savings).


How would have spending billions on catapults saved money in the long term?


Early on would have required a major steam generation instead of GT, which would have added to the build cost. CDG has nuclear reactor with steam turbines anyway

John Marshall

Not so if ICCALS had been pursued.

John Wood



We british we’re working on a successful emals type system, I think we gave some data to USA and didn’t pursue it ourselves…there’s footage of the British testing it.

andy reeves

the u. monopoly should be tasked with producing a home designed and built club k (google it) containerised cruise missile system. such a system placed onto royal navy ships would vastly and quickly increase the ‘punching ability’ of the u.k strike group for example


The EMALS system in question has been in use for over 10 years. It’s currently used by Qinetiq to launch target drones at their ranges. The version earmarked for the QE class was a “big brother” version.


Yeah I thought so DaveyB ?

andy reeves

EMALS was still in an infant stage which didn’t help. if would have been a cheaper option to the catobar fixation


Not just the billions on cats and traps but having to train 200 pilots how to land and take off from a carrier.
We have not had a cats and traps carrier since Ark Royal ( Audacious Class ) was decommissioned in 1979 .

The decision to go with STOVL was basically because of money , logistics and manpower. Neither the RN or RAF have enough fast jet pilots to train for Catobar operations.

Look how long it has taken to get the QE ready for its first major deployment since it entered service can you imagine how long it would have taken if we have gone down the CATOBAR route after a 40 year gap .


Andy, in many ways the fitting of cats and traps would save over the 50 year life span of the QEs billions.
Reason fist the carriers would not be a one aircraft type vessel making cost comparison, flexibility in aircraft types and cost compition between aircraft types drive savings. For example does the QE need 3-4 sqns of F35Bs in its STOVL configuration yes meaning £4 billion in combat aircraft. In the CATOBAR configuration a QE could have 1 sqn of F35As, 2 sqns of advanced super Hornets, a flight of Grolwers, a flight of Hawkeye and a flight of MQ-25 Stingrays. This would cost approx £3 billion. I have used these aircraft as examples, we could always try to build a naval version of the Eurofighter or the SAAB Gripen M. A gripen is half the price of a F35B

Then come the next issue a QE cannot operate alongside an American or French carrier group, yes the RN can land on their carriers but they cannot land on ours. We can work alongside the USMC, Italian, Spainish and Japanese as well as possibly the Aussies and South Koreans.

With the QEs being locked into the F35B project then the MoD is held over the coals in terms of price. This means we need to pay what LM demand otherwise our carriers will not be able to operate at full capacity. What people forget is that in surge mode the QEs can handle 70 aircraft for short periods such as a short sharp Falklands conflict.

The next issue is the QEs are designed for 50 years of operations, is the F35B still going to be around in 40 years time, is there going to be a STOVL aircraft around in 40 years time?

To be honest if I were the MoD and RN I would be putting some money aside each year until the carriers go in for a major refit and repair which will be in about ten years from now. Then I would do two things

  1. cut the QE in two and fit a third lift section behind the foreward bridge and install a third Turbine as well as a point defence system. That would increase its lenght by 139 ft. The carrier was built in blocks so it means building a new midships lift block and inserting. That would cost approx £500 million.
  2. Install Traps
  3. A nice to have, widen the ski jump and install a twin EMAL, I checked a EMAL can be used on the ski jump. In fact it is even better as the two combine meaning that less power is needed for the EMALal or heavier aircraft can be launched.

At the moment the QEs have several issues the first is simple the aircraft it is designed to use. Answer this, a Carrier and its aircraft is designed to go into harms way, its aircraft will get damaged or even malfunction. The F35B is a complicated piece of equipment that will go wrong. So what happens if the lift fan cover does not open on an F35B, can it land on the carrier, no, does the carrier have a crash barrier, no, can it land on another carrier no (no hook). So a £100 million aircraft has to be ditched because a £100 switch has failed. Or are you going to fly out a Voyager and escort it all the way back to a land garage?

As an ex military technician I always want my equipment to be squaddie proof, simple robust and withstand the riggers of operating in the field, being dropped, kicked abused. Its nice to have everything working on the tech bench but it is needed to operate in the field. I suppose its like a Farrari and a Ford, we all want the Farrari, but it will spend so much time in the workshop that its useless for the day to day work.

By the way many of our pilots are CAT and TRAP certified as they operate of US and French carriers over the past ten years.

So would it save billions, over a 50 year period yes, also by fitting traps it would make the carriers more flexible, by spending an extra billion on each of the carriers we would have future proofed them. Sometimes short term savings means long term costs. Don,t get me wrong they are good ships and a good addition to the fleet, but they could have been so much better if the original concepts had been kept. That was that they should have been built with the idea of fitting cats and traps in the future.

Humpty Dumpty

Couldn’t agree more. No cats and traps limits us to just the F-35B, which as you say is a Ferrari, not a Ford. It’s overcomplicated for what any aircraft needs to do and that’s fire missiles.

With the exception of ASRAAM, the F-35 doesn’t carry particularly good air-to-air missiles and all the air-to-surface missiles lack range. It’ll be getting Meteor in 2024, but no plans for IRIS-T, MICA, A-Darter or JASSM-ER with a stand-off range of over 900km.

Plus no cats & traps means no Growlers, Hawkeyes, 4th gen jets (my preference would be the Rafale M over the Super Hornet) or MQ-25s when they’re ready.

We used to build proper carriers. But we switched to STOVL carriers and as a result have inferior carriers with inferior capabilities.


F-35Cs are the carrier version with strengthened undercarriage. An F35A would not cope.


Fitting out a carrier with Aircraft that in some cases are 25 years old, was a reason, UK didnt go for a Cats n Traps. BAEs failed with the Navalised TYPHOON. 50 YEARS service life, EMALS is still not serviceable and USA is having design issues with the FORD class, you have missed the point of what the UK Carriers are designed for. Fleet defence and global presence. they are not a strike carrier, USA now looking at its carriers due to pure cost, one in developing new and 2nd they scrapping of the old. with scrapping of the old costing more than building new. UK is the only country in the world to operate a 5th gen carrier with a 5th gen air wing. not forgetting USA cannot emal a F35. Projects and other future developments will enhance the UK CARRIERS if we just keep BAEs and incompetent UK suppliers under another partner.


I didn’t say we’d save billions in the long term, just that the decision was based on making savings – which it principally was.

If we ignore costs for 1 second, who actually thinks a STOVL option is superior? No one. It’s just cheaper.

Had we gone down the Catobar route, we would have a better carrier but it would have cost more to buy/develop the systems and to train pilots (I read somewhere it’s $2M per pilot per year!) & as usual, we weren’t willing to pay. That’s all I was saying.

If we pretend I did actually say “CATOBAR would have saved us money”, let’s hash that out for a moment then and pretend we’re going to get “world class” everything. Look at the force multipliers for a carrier – air-to-air refuelling, AEW and COD all significantly improve the capabilities. If we want world-class, we need these too (we won’t get the best of them because of costs) but lets play armchair admiral & pretend we will get the creme de la creme;

Costs for cats and traps for Ford were $760M installed during construction. We’d also only have needed 2 cats instead of the Ford’s 4. I can’t find much on through life costs except “cheaper than steam” and “saves a lot of wear on airframes” soooo… who knows. More money though. Versus, build a ramp & then it’s free.

F35B v C – unit price is about £6M less for a C and operating costs currently 5% less per flying hour ($38,400, v $36,300). For 138 jets = $828M cheaper to buy, $2.1B cheaper to operate over it’s 8,000 hour lifespan.

COD – STOVL basically gives us one option – V22 – $100M + $60k per hour. Updated C2 – don’t know but…. almost certainly cheaper. Probably could have started with some used USN ones. In a pinch, we could have “borrowed” a C2 like the French did in Lybia or just shared with the USN. We likely won’t be getting either though.

Refuelling – V22 or V247 versus MQ25. V22 we know is pricey, v247 looks a cheap option to be fair. MQ25 looks very expensive but I believe they’re looking at making it a strike drone too so… In the murky world of defence contracts, who knows. Again, we won’t get any.

AEW – see the articles on this site. France bought 3 new E2’s with spares etc. for $2B I can’t find much more than that on running costs & how much running costs will be taken care of by the $2B but I’ll venture a guess that ‘per flight hour’ will be more than Merlins but for a better system/platform. In the future, have a drone & datalink the radar info back to the carrier and do it for a lot less but we’d now need a STOVL drone…

Strike drones, barring the V247, is anyone developing anything for STOVL? Nope. Is V247 stealthy? Air to Air capable? Costs and maintainance for anything STOVL is always going to be more.

Fold it all together & STOVL is almost certainly still cheaper. But it’s not by a crazy amount you’d read in the headlines. And if we took all the totals & spread them over the lifetime (50 years) or even the first 20 years of the carrier… Me personally, I’d have spent the extra for the better product.


Should have built a Sea Typhoon !


HA! If we had all the money in the world, I’d love to see that. I think BAE actually did a STOBAR design for India. There would be a fair bit of additional engineering to get them to launch from Cat’s no doubt but…
imagine having the entire arsenal available (I’m thinking Storm Shadow) without expensive integration to worry about.


The French managed to design two variants of their Rafale.


Oh 100% agree – it could have been done. We went with STOVL though 🙁


But we had harriers then, the French needed two new types so by not just save money modifying to a sea Rafael


would youu trust the French, supplied Argentina during the Falklands. peasants


Typhoon is no good for carrier operation. The cannards would obscure the deck on landing.


I can see how that may be. Is that why India declined? Surely tech can overcome that though? I’m probably being naive but, F35 pilots can see straight through their airframe.


We had an Alfa Romeo like that once.


Those pesky Ducks get everywhere…..!


BAEs were tasked with a study to navalise a TYPHOON. the money was shocking. total redesign, Carbon fibre and other composits dont take to stopping dead like alloys.

John Wood

You know the fatigue life of the “B” is now 2,100 hrs!!

Paul Courtenay

Is it a better product and more capable? In 1982 we went to war and thanks to STOVL we were able to fully operate warplanes in some of the worst conditions you can imagine, and certainly in which a Catobar carrier would have struggled to do so! For us STOVL was a real blessing, indeed, during an exercise off Norway shortly before the Falklands, HMS Invincible successfully launched and recovered a Sea Harrier during adverse weather conditions so bad, that the USS Nimitz could not conduct flying operations. During her first set of trials off the US, QE launched and recovered F35Bs in adverse weather conditions whilst courting the tail end of a hurricane. So at the end of the day, STOVL is in fact a better bet……

Supportive Bloke

Using EMALS would have cost to implement and then cost a stack more in pilot qualification. There was a negative saving to be had!

Getting pilots qualified for catapult used is very very expensive.

Converting pilots from land based to carrier based VSTOL is about 1/8 of the price.

Drone tech is maturing very nicely now and lift and duration are increasing by the month so it is getting increasingly credible that there will be a UAV solution in the not too long term.

Simon m

There’s manned solutions now: V22 aw609 and soon v247 valour


As above: I didn’t say we’d save billions in the long term, just that the decision was based on making savings – which it principally was.
If we ignore costs for 1 second, who actually thinks a STOVL option is superior? No one. It’s just cheaper. I’ve proposed above that long term savings were not all that much choosing STOVL…
As for Drone tech – I’ll have a wager that any STOVL version/equivalence over catobar is more to buy and operate and/or will deliver inferior performance.


What about rolling landing on a carrier?


One off drones?

We can’t even give enough money to Crowsnest which is hosted in an available platform. Never mind building a new platform and a new sensor system.

Humpty Dumpty

An 1/8 of the price? What’s your source for that?

andy reeves

the m.o.d needs to start thinking ‘outside the box the defence of the realm should not come from the BAE/MBDAc catalogues


Are there not other more cost effective options available? UAV, Airships…


The best way at the moment is men in a cab fluttering about above the task group.

We need more cabs. Simples.

andy reeves

a couple of stokers with elastic catapults would do better


UAV are not really the super cheap option that they are made out to be. If you say compare a predator to a typhoon, the number of missiles that each platform can carry isn’t really comparable. The predator would need to be significantly larger and more expensive to carry the same amount of weapons.

Also any air vehicle has the same problem, which is weight. The human side, i am guessing is not going to add a huge amount of extra weight, on top of the core weight provided by a platform that could lift the radar to the needed height and carry enough fuel to keep it there. Size means cost in building.

Then there is the basics, to get a radar into the sky it needs an engine etc, which all cost money and that engine needs to be sufficiently powerful to lift the weight, radar, systems, including the fuel.

Then there is R&D, there are no short take off / vertical takeoff UAV platforms that are sufficiently large around today (that i am aware of), which means something would need to be designed, which brings cost.

When you compare that to crowsnest, with the Merlins already being in service and the radar being off the shelf it has to be more expensive to go for a UAV and yet crowsnest is already costing a fortune and taking forever (for effectively joining 2 in service things together), imagine the cost and timing of creating something new.


UAV’s do not need a trained pilot. That is also part of a cost of an aircraft.


They do need a pilot.
comment image


they do use pilots..

4th watch

I think one could design and build a STOL pusher plane for much less than all this time wasting we are engaged on at present. Once you have agreed it needs a tricycle or quad undercarriage and two crew side by side you have the bare bones of what is required.
The Gannet for instance had 250 kn and 25000 ft performance with endurance of up to 6 hours.
Has anyone even had a go at this. They might need to think out of the box!


Crosnwest is yet another parred away to the bone project.

We need another cabs to provide cover for two task groups. On for 5 for 1 basis I would say we need about 15 new helicopters.

We need a cheaper helicopter, perhaps more Wildcat, for jobs like plane guard too.


I think I read somewhere a while back that the intention was to embark a couple of Wildcat’s for the 2021 deployment specifically as plane guards (presumably primarily for when QE is anchored off-shore as i can’t imagine her making it into many ports).

I’d be bold and shift the Army’s Wildcat’s to the RN, with data links and dipping sonar’s being high priorities on the wish list.

Give Apache to the RAF and effectively disband the AAC – with a much cheaper, more robust and more numerous UAV than Watchkeeper left with the Royal Artillery for surveillance and targeting.

Roger Cansdale

Why not take all the RAF’s helicopters and give them to the AAC? They are mainly used to transport the Army anyway. Transfer personnel too to operate them.

Dave Wolfy

MT Air.


The Wildcat isn’t the helicopter the Army wants. Too big in some ways and too small in others. Something smaller would have been better.

I see CH47 more as an aeroplane than helicopter and probably best with the RAF.

I agree more with Roger to be honest. I would replace Puma with NH90 and give it the AAC.

It works as it is now really. The problem really is having a third service that just supports the other two really. If I was to have a magic wand our armed forces would be organised along the lines of the USN and USMC.


Difference of opinion? Or just childishness? Down voting really adds so much to the site.


Childishness then………


Seems to be a fair few here. I wouldn’t worry too much though, It’s all they have . rather sadly.


Chin up, buddy. You add to the discussion, trivial downvotes add nothing.

Rob johno

The NH90 is a pile of sh1t, none of the operates that have them want them. The AW149M is a better replacement and would keep jobs in the UK! As for the crowsnest project they need a dedicated Squadron with at least 12 aircraft.


AW149M it is then. I knew I should said comparable in size to. 🙂


I believe the AW149 would be at least half the price of the NH90.


As I said I should have just said comparable in size too.

AugustaWestland’s model numbers always confuse me anyway!


Yeah, I understand there was an alternative bid with an AESA radar that was rejected on cost grounds. The system as developed is just an update of the old Sea King system I think.
I’d be ok with that if we had enough airframes though, but we don’t. I can’t believe we disbanded one of the Merlin squadrons… A squadron of AEW specialists strikes me as a rather good idea.
Personally, I don’t have too much of a problem with the price of Merlin or Wildcat, considering they’re building them in the UK in limited numbers. I think most of the problem is balancing the in-year budgets, forcing them to cut stuff like data links and generally slowing down acquisition. Sort that out, and recognise the benefits of building in the UK and I think they’d be ok.


Yep. We are where we are.


The LM bid with a pair of AESA radars would have required a great deal of development. It never actually was demonstrated in working form. The flights of the system, which were photographed, merely assessed whether the radars could be adequate cooled if fitted. If this proposal had been selected the RN would have had to wait at least another 10 years for AEW. Quite rightly rejected.


Thanks for the extra insight, I didn’t have a lot of additional information on it. Hopefully they haven’t shelved the concept completely, and are already thinking ahead to Crowsnest’s eventual replacement…!

Supportive Bloke

I wouldn’t actually describe it as pared to the bone.

Sure it has been delayed, one again, to suit the MOD’s cash flow curve. Which will cost more in the long run.

10 sets is, by current procurement, quit generous. It makes me think wonder if there is another platform in the works to put them on?


It is. 😉

Supportive Bloke

It is paired to the bone


there is another platform in the works??

pray elucidate!


Obviously this capability has long been considered, but how high is this helo able to fly? A hawkeye must be much higher and thus more effective and frankly, how stable is a helicopters even when it operates in stable conditions. And what is its endurance? Crew fatigue?

It clearly is better, much better, than nothing but it is the Achillese heel of a vtol carrier.

But has I may have said before, the point of defence is deterrence and these carriers are a part of that. And I think they will deter.


It’s okay. In a real conflict the QE will operate together with actual fleet carriers like the American Nimitz and Ford carriers or the Charles de Gaulle which will provide coverage with their E-2Ds.


Really like we did in the falklands? Cos we will never fight on our own? With world and USA how it it is I doubt we can count on that any more. Traditionally unlike France and other nato countries we try to have a little of everything so we can stand alone.


When the QE concept was put on the table the support of US carrier strike groups was literally the main role of the carrier.


That is so not true.


The Invincibles role was to act as an ASW taskgroup leader in the Eastern Atlantic screening USN carrier battle groups headed for Europe.

Queen Elizabeth came about as part of Blair and his interventionist policies as part of his grand scheme to become the head of the EU.


I think there is some truth in this assertion (although it has got somewhat jumbled in the retelling)

Its not fair to say that support of US CSG’s was the main anticipated role of the QE class, however, many years ago I read a MOD document (please dont ask me for references, I cant provide any) discussing the drivers around the QE class design.

As I remember (and it was a fair time ago so go easy!) the thought process started with the number of sorties required in a certain timeframe to provide a meaningful contribution to a coalition operation (for meaningful read enough to give us a say in the conduct and direction of operations i.e. not a token and for coalition read American) from this came aircraft numbers etc. etc.

So support of US CSG’s was a/the main factor in the design of the ships but not neccessarily the main driver in the re-acquisition of a carrier capability.

John Wood

The main role was deep strike.
The f35b cannot do deep strike
The F35c can hardly do deep strike.
Crowsnest is, or will be, an expensive crock of s**t.
This whole STOVL carrier idea is almost as daft as the USMC wanting a stealthy, supersonic, CAS aircraft.


Extremely doubtful that the QE’s will always be operating with a US carrier. Crowsnest plus F-35 radar coverage will be fine. There are much more important aspects of the UK CSG to be concerned about. Such as lack of sufficient F-35’s, lack of UK escorts, and lack of stores support ships.


Saying something is fine doesn’t make it fine. With the lack of a fixed wing AEW platform and organic missile defense the QE would be a sitting duck in the first and second island channels around China.


Saying the QE would be a sitting duck doesn’t make it true either.

Humpty Dumpty

Well if a carrier group stays far out to sea out of the range of DF-26s then it won’t be a sitting duck. But then the F-35s won’t have range to reach land, so a carrier group will have rendered itself impotent.

We need a way to take out mobile land-based anti-ship missile launchers (and mobile SAM launchers) so a carrier group can get closer to land and the best way to achieve that imo is with vast numbers of cheap suicide drones dropped over sea by aircraft beyond the range of S-400 (400km).


Your concerns about Crowsnest stability, endurance, and crew comfort are misplaced. Operating height can be criticized because it directly impacts radar range but otherwise the system is comparable to Hawkeye and has some capabilities that even Hawkeye does not have.


The systems isn’t comparable to those fitted in the E2. Nowhere near.

Supportive Bloke

Simply because it has the same name as the original Nimrod carried radar from the 70’s which was then hurriedly modified for the Sea King doesn’t mean that it is in any way actually the same.

What is being taken forward here is the fully developed system what was destined for the MRA4 project. And that, I am told, was pretty sophisticated. And that bit worked.

OK it is repackaged and put into a reduced footprint etc

I for one am convinced that it will be a very highly effective system.

I do wish we could stop being so Britishly negative about this. We have fantastic EW/radar tech and there is an awful lot more quiet R&D going on than is shouted about. We have a massive university research sector and we can’t shout about everything otherwise they get squillions of Chinese students over for some post grad work there.


It is what it is. Crowsnest doesn’t compare to E2.


So you keep saying with zero hard data to back your opinion. And you know what the saying about opinions is.


Go read the specs.

I think the Yanks didn’t spend $4.2 billion for nothing.

John Wood

NADC Pa on P3c update 4 and screwtop at Palmdale. “X” is spot on.


The Crowsnest fitted to the Merlin will be equivalent in some respects to the performance and capabilities of E2C not the E2D. For starters the E2D’s APY-9 uses a much lower UHF band operating frequency of 0.3 to 1.0 GHz. This means for the equivalent amount of transmitter power, its range will be greater than a higher frequency radar. At longer wavelengths the RCS of a target will increase due to the resonance effect, thus purporting to make it easier to detect stealthier targets. However, these low frequency radars suffer a lot more from clutter, especially from rain or snow.

The Searchwater radar operates in the X band at a much higher frequency of 8.0 to 12.0 GHz. At these smaller wavelengths it makes it easier to detect a small target against moving surface clutter, i.e. a periscope amongst waves. These frequencies are not effected by rain or snow and also give a better resolution of the target. The radar when used on the Sea Kings in Afghan was able to detect ground disturbances on roads, showing where possible IEDs were located. The radar is really good, nearly on par with the Typhoon’s Captor-M. However, just like Captor-M it is mechanically scanned, unlike the E2Ds which is electronically, although mechanically rotated. This means the Searchwater is slower to do a complete sweep of the sky and is more susceptible to being detected or jammed.

At the E2D’s operating altitude the APY-9 has a published detection range against a fighter sized target of just over 600km. Whilst the Searchwater is around a third of that. The other two advantages the E2D has over the Crowsnest Merlin, is that it operates as a cooperative engagement capability hub for the fleet and as a secure relay for the F35’s advanced data-link. Both of which the Navy really could do with!


You are making assumptions about Crowsnest performance that are incorrect. Try researching hard data.


The above data is correct.


So what is a “fighter sized target”? F15, Typhoon, F-35, F-22 which one? Let alone all the Russian & Chinese types.

And how have you determined Crowsnest radar range is 200km against it?


The last iteration of the Sea King Mk7 ASaC had a published range by Thales of 240km against a “fighter sized” target, they don’t publish the RCS of the target. The earlier Searchwater 2000 had slightly less range (180km on a good day) but could detect targets with a RCS resolution of 2.0m2 at this distance. This is by today’s standards very large, that RCS is equivalent to a Tornado sized aircraft, with lots of 90 degree angles and corners. The latest version of the Searchwater radar has an all new signal processing back end, but sadly still uses the analogue front end, whereas they should be using the Searchmaster front end which is a mechanically rotated X band AESA system and is currently used on the Atlantic 2 MPA aircraft.


So you spent the day on google. Congratulations. Keeping looking and maybe you’ll find the reported range estimates of Crowsnest are rather longer than you think. I’m looking at Janes & RW although actual range is classified I would think.

What is your source for stating the Searchwater 2000 limit is a 2m sq RCS target at 180km?


Says the person who only reals off stuff he has read from the internet.


IET Lecture and Association of old crows presentation, why?


I was merely curious. Hard data like that on radar performance is rare. My sources, I have indicated two above, are consistent that Crowsnest has an operation range over 200 nm but against what target and under what conditions I do not know. The latest software has conferred a longer range but not earth shattering, it’s the clutter & jamming rejection that has been noticeably improved. Well that and the HMI. I think the system will be a great success in service.


The actual detection ranges of the Sea King Mk7 ASaC are secret. They will not be published in the public domain, if at all. The ASaC Searchwater is a development of the 2000 version with a number of front and back end enhancements. I would fully expect that its actual performance to be much better than its published performance. The RCS of the 2000 Searchwater is now over 20 years old, the system has moved on since then. The system that Crowsnest is using is a development of ASaC. It keeps the same front end, but has a newer back end. A lot of obsolete (out of production) components have been replaced. It has also had a lot of software tweeks to the signal processing. So I would fully expect this newer version of Searchwater to be better again.

The IET lecture discussed the creation of Searchwater back in the 70’s by Thorn EMI and how it was going to be the then new Nimrod’s primary sensor. It then went through the life cycle when fitted to Nimrod and the scramble to get it fitted to the Sea King for the Falklands. The RN were fully aware of the Fleet’s susceptibility to sea skimming anti-ship missiles. Unfortunately the two converted Sea Kings were not ready by the start of the war. They did however, go down with HMS Illustrious just after cessation of hostilities.

The sea skimming threat is the primary reason why the Searchwater was chosen in the first place. It had a very good history of detecting periscopes/snorkels/aerials in very choppy seas in the most atrocious of weathers. Nimrod trials proved that it could detect a “Exocet” types of target over a 100km away. The radar was given additional subsequent air to air modes and a dual beam antenna, so it could look down as well as up simultaneously. However, there is a caveat. In the air to air mode, the aircraft’s airframe blocks a good portion of the radar in the look-up mode and will generate a blind spot.

The Italian Navy’s Merlin use the Leonardo ELIRADAR HEW(APS)-784, mounted in the radome under the fuselage. It has a published range of 370km against a large surface vessel. So against a smaller “fighter” sized target the range will be shorter. In retrospect the location of the radar is worse than that chosen for the UK Merlin. Being directl;y under the fuselage, it will have a limited look-up view, with probably quite a shallow look-up angle compared to Crowsnest.

Supportive Bloke

That is a very interesting analysis.

Thank you for setting that out so well and so patiently with all the flak flying around on this one!


It doesn’t agree with Ron5’s world view so it is wrong.

John Wood

Without BACN that carrier is toast.


Crowsnest is literal the old Searchwater 2000 radar with a new backend. While even the French are now moving to E-2D which uses a new developed AESA radar with an output the small Searchwater 2000 radar can only dream about. Not that the previous variants weren’t already in a different league.


This ^^^^^^^^^^


Two birds of a feather spouting nonsensical opinions without any supporting knowledge. Whoopee. Welcome to the internet.

Simon m

Again what’s the solution before you just criticize and belittle. To pretend all is well?


Ron5 likes to play Top Trumps.

He never says anything of any use. He does on lots of forums.

I think we only seem him intermittently because the institution where he is interned only how computer privileges every few weeks.


If you think Crowsnest is the equal or superior to E2 then you are barking.


Such expert replies. I’m amazed at your cumulative in-depth knowledge about AEW. Really amazed.

“obvious innit mate”


You should be amazed.

John Wood

My background:

37years in AEW, McM, ASW. CEC, consultant Ferrranti, Westinghouse, NAVAIR, NADC, Advisor to HMG. Specialist in very large aperture low frequency ( CARIBAL type) systems and conformal arrays.

The Crowsnest radar is inferior in every major respect to the APY-9.
The platform is almost laughably inferior in every cardinal respect.

It is being employed simply because the use of a ski jump vessel, with no CATOBAR capability, does not permit of anything else. The lack of any network-centric capability on these ships, and indeed on every other ship in the RN, is an absolutely crucial omission that prevents the generation of any meaningful IAP. The range of the F35b does not permit a meaningful CAP to be established and maintained, and means also that, in order to provide anything approaching a “deep strike” the CBG would have to move suicidally close to land. E2-D is the ONLY means of establishing long-endurance OAEW and BACN. Without both of these functions we might as well stay in port.

Indeed when you think about it, it is obvious.

Simon m

It’s not only endurance that’s a factor speed and height are also critical factors both to escape danger & to maximize deployment of the sensors. No other country in the world has ever even considered using a helicopter in aew so to pretend Merlin is an acceptable solution is just plain wrong IMO. Otherwise there would aew helicopters everywhere. The only reason another solution has not been adopted is cash. For such a specialist role & the cost of the carriers the v22 could & should have been adopted. Plus the fact we only have 30 Merlins moving them away from their primary role is IMO not a good use of resources


“No other country in the world has ever even considered using a helicopter in aew”

You mean apart from India and Russia?


“it’s obvious innit mate”


and Italy and China.


The Italians have AEW mounted in helicopters. And in a Merlin too.

comment image?v=v40

V22 is a nightmare. Technically a wonder. But a nightmare.


The Italian AEW helos are something of a nightmare too.


Source Ron5? Or just another throwaway one liner?


After a handful of deployments, it’s going to be all too obvious for both UK Carrier Strike Groups and American Amphibious Ready Groups, that a more robust and capable AEW capability is needed to pair with the F-35B.

Thus the push for V-22 AEW variant will be initiated and funded so that it can at least provide the capability of a baby E-2D. Other countries who would likely have interest would be Japan, India, and Australia.

Last edited 3 years ago by corsair

Perhaps, but I can’t see an ARG going ashore in such a threat environment without a CBG being close by. But as you say there is some scope. But nothing on the horizon as yet.


You are correct, any offensive operation is going to involve nearly all the tools in the arsenal, however the E-2s assigned are going to be over-tasked and the crews burnt-out. They’ll have their handsful identifying all in-bound threats while, coordinating all the friendlies. With the F-35’s involved in strike missions, there will be a need for command & control assets to oversee the strike and CAS missions, along with any amphibious/heliborne operations.

The latest USN air wings are adding a fifth E-2D to the squadrons starting with next year’s F-35C debut deployment to help lessen the burden on each platform. Each ship’s air commander is going to want their own organic AEW/C2 asset, particularly when they do independent ops.

Humpty Dumpty

Totally agree. Osprey (or equivalent) would have superior range, altitude and speed compared to Merlin Crowsnest and it would free up Merlins for ASW. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

John Wood

US did with the “Mohave” back in the mid ’50’s.

For about six months.

John Wood

Bloody hell Ron “comparable to Hawkeye”? Give it a break!
I’n ex NADC and have worked as a consultant to LM ( and BAe)
It isn’t comparable, not at all.

4th watch

What a way to run a Navy. As I’ve said before, ultimately its the way the Treasury and civil service thinks. They need to understand that they spend 40%+ of the UK economy and if they don’t understand about investment for the future, we are done.
With defence its particularly important otherwise you end up with a very dangerous and risky gap as when the Harriers were sold off cheap etc,etc, and military defeat or humiliation looms. The Navy is the most exposed of the services, because they are at the sharp end, most often in the early stages of unforseen conflict.


agreed 100%. They are only doing this because they have got away with it for decades, 1982 would have been much different in 1984 if Knott had his way. Then again, we probably would never have been sent south and a fair few hundred good people would never have died doing what these people asked. Too many lives have been lost just trying to undo so many wrongs.

4th watch

So nearly humiliated in 1982. Just by reading the newspaper one could see it coming. I couldn’t sleep before, waiting for the inevitable. As soon as the scrap dealers arrived in South Georgia it was a betting certainty IMHO. The rest is history but if we’d had a credible carrier and sent it south the Argies would have called it off.
There are other developments that concern me now; like anyone upgrading their amphibious strike assets and I can think of a few.
We are so gullible and poorly led politically, that one hears we are considering scrapping ours.

Simon m

The AW609 is starting to come in to production. At allegedly approximately 15m per aircraft surely Cerberus mission equipment and consoles could be integrated for not too much. This would free up Merlin’s & improve height of the sensor AW609 is pressurised (meaning easier to stay higher than osprey) as well as dash speed meaning the aircraft can be in position quicker, but also get out of danger. Designed for the civilian market (they are also doing a version for military surveillance) it would likely be low on maintenance & reliable. Kit could be removed & give some light COD as well.
Possibly not the best solution ever, but better than Merlin in this role, which with long range AAM could actually be dangerous.


This is a solution I have been suggesting for over 12 months now. The operating ceiling 25,000 ft alone makes it a better option than Merlin (which are desperately needed elsewhere).
VTOL and a cruise speed of 315 MPH vs the Merlin’s 175 MPH are as you say just what is needed. Handy for personnel and small freight ops.

Dave G

They may be 15 million for a commercial of the shelf platform but you can’t simply lash a mission console in and bolt a system to the outside and expect it to work even assuming it will fit.

You need to integrate military grade comms, navigation equipment and DAS etc into the aircraft, much of which will have to integrate to flight critical avionics. I suspect the 609 is not marinised and so will need things like flotation gear added in case of sea landing if not more extensive crash worthiness elements. What about fitting in the hanger and lifts? Sorting this needs expensive design work and full certification activities that will make it much more expensive and which we would probably have to do alone.

Looking at the big picture, the up front cost to buy is tiny compared to the support costs to operate and maintain an entire new type of aircraft. This would be billions over the life of the platform, much of which is already paid for if you stick with an aircraft already in your fleet.

Looking at the cost of the commercial variant plus a bit and thinking we can get and maintain a useful capability for a few 100 million is naive.

Simon m

Already prepared for SAR? as well as maritime surveillance & government roles.

And the Italians are putting work in to the platform. So no reason not good to go.

No reason it won’t fit in lifts & hangers if Chinook fits

Yes integration will cost & so will a new airframe but I’m looking at the picture where we are pretending to operate a CSW where the plan is to put a slow helicopter high in the sky to give early warning of fast jets armed with potentially long range AAMs.

Look at USN & French carriers & look around the world where else helicopters are being used for AEW? There’s a reason there’s no one else is doing it – because helicopters are not suitable for this role. Plus we have 30 Merlin’s not enough to take on this ill suited role.

Also compare operating costs to V22 or Hawkeye this was designed for private owners at the outset so will be cheaper to run.

Plus that kind of view is indicative of what bad value we’re getting from the defence industry, because it shouldn’t cost that much but we’re so used to be ripped off we start to expect it.


I guess you missed the bit about the cabin being 4 feet high and 4 feet wide.

Simon m

It isn’t that small and only 2 operators are required. If the radar equipment weighs that much you would have to look at it again as must seriously effect the duration of operations.
It would be nice to hear you come with solutions rather than moaning & trying to belittle everyone else’s ideas. It’s easy to criticize
“supportive bloke” try and live up to your handle that you hide behind instead of hurling insults
admin you really need to start looking at some of those on here that are putting off others with their destructive comments

Supportive Bloke


“supportive bloke” try and live up to your handle that you hide behind instead of hurling insults”

I find your comment quite strange. I’m not sure what tweaked your nose. The term “commentards” is jocularly used on a lot of science and tech sites like The Register and nobody takes offence at that – it is just an in joke.

I am very supportive of the effectiveness of Merlin CrowsNest, read my other posts on it, as I do suspect that the people involved know exactly what they are doing.

Modern military radar is not some very passive system that emits weak RF pings. They can blast out some serious RF power as well as subtly disrupting other RF systems. The TV program about T45’s did hint at Sampson’s capabilities in that regard. Think about flying into a 50 x microwave oven at full blast aimed straight at you. And then think about the effect that has on electronics and the other contents and munitions of an aircraft or missile.

Lets look at this in deliberately very generic terms using broad approximations from what we should be able to deduce from first principles from what is published openly on manufacturers websites.

A radar like CrowsNest needs power in the 10’s of kW – probably higher in burst mode. Artisan for instance has a stated power of 18kW – source BAE website – so let’s use that number for the sake of argument.
A 18 kW output probably needs about 30 kW of raw power supply because of the power supply/amplification/transmission heating losses: that is quite a lot
A power amplifier that can work in 20+ kW range is also big and heavy
This all needs cooling, which is heavy and requires lots of power
A physical radar device is reasonably heavy – it has to cope with being banged around in service
And as others have said then you need the people and what they need to do their job properly although I would **guess** that the weight of the operators and consoles is not really the limiting factor here.

Do you see where this is going? Yup, it is very big and very heavy and needs a medium lift cab so as to have any decent endurance. It has also got to be able to cope with being asymmetrically loaded as the inflatable dome is on one side of the cab: so you cannot go near the load limit on a smaller cab for that reason alone.

Now others on here are saying design it down to the load of a smaller cab but the issue is you just end up with something that is a lot less effective.

I suspect we will never agree on this. But what I had set out above is simply common sense which anyone who understands what the objective are and the basic physics should be able to set out.


Direct from the manufactures website: Internal Dimensions: Max Length 4.01 m 13 ft 2 in Max Width 1.47 m 4 ft 10 in Max Height 1.42 m 4 ft 5 in

I guess the RN would have to recruit some midget fighter directors. No one over 4 feet tall need apply.

And solution to what? Crowsnest is the RN solution for AEW.


Check out the Kamov KA31 helicopter, as used by Russia, China and India as their carrier AEW aircraft.


Don’t be ridiculous, the AW609 is way too small. At about 7 tons max take off weight, it’s not much bigger than the 6 ton Wildcat. The AW609 is not capable of lifting the weight of an AEW system. Period.

Supportive Bloke

@Ron 5

I think what the other worth commentards on here are being mislead by is the fact that the radardome is a ‘ballon” and therefore “weights nothing”.

The quite chunky power amplifiers for a wide search radar will weigh an awful lot. As will the active lump in the middle of the inflatable dome.

You then have to take account of how a lot of power is generated and possibly stored for high powered bursts – I am speculating on the last bit but I would *guess* that it was necessary.

This is a big, heavy, powerful bit of kit that need a Merlin to lift and **power** it. To a certain extend it appears to have been maximised to suit the capabilities of the Merlin.


And don’t forget the the hefty guys in the back that do the radar analysis and fighter direction. In the AW609 they’d have to lie down to fit.


Before the USMC MUX programme got canned. The Bell 247 Vigilant was being looked at as an organic AEW and comm’s relay aircraft, using the F35’s APG-81 radar. Earlier this year the USMC conducted the Lightning carrier concept trial using USS Wasp. When operating in the South China Sea they relied on the US Navy providing Hawkeye cover flown from the Philippines. They quickly discovered that this was not good enough. If the USN/USMC go ahead with the Lightning carrier concept, then they will need an organic AEW aircraft that can be flown from their amphibs.

Using their current aircraft, the Seahawk/Huey are too small leaving either the V22 or Sea Stallion. The V22 has been proposed in the past and Bell have produced plans already for an AEW version. The Sea Stallion has not to the best of my knowledge been looked at as AEW platform. So you’d would need to start from scratch, thereby leaving it years to get anything to the production stage.

I still think the Vigilant would be one of the best long term solutions for both the USMC and FAA. It’s detection range would be better than Crowsnest due to the higher operating altitude. But perhaps just as critically, it can stay on station longer than the Merlin.

Michael Tagg

The simple fact is we are a third rate economy trying to have a first rate independent military. We can’t afford it period. We should either stop having aspirations of a super power or be prepared to join forces with comparable countries with like minded outlook. That mean’t the EU members but Brexit has done for that. Only other option is being an extension of the US military hoping we can have some influence if any. We are a international joke


The economy is not really the issue. Money is there, but we are incapable of spending it wisely. Billions given away in Foreign Aid to countries with their own space programs? Plus we simply screw up our procurement processes ensuring we pay far more for what we have! We need to get our house in order!!

Max Booth

Exactly! Spend the money on the defence and other U.K. issues. Ridiculous all this money we’re giving away.

Rob N

Agreed. The UK is not poor but we spend less then 2% on are armed forces. If we had a larger budget and a better spendding plan we could afford a better military.


this is sure your running gag


People like you make me puke. The UK is in no way this “third rate economy” you portray to suit your politics which you demonstrate by your equally uneducated comment about ‘EU members’. We are already partnered within NATO but this ‘third rate economy’ is the 2nd largest contributor to NATO after the USA. These so called ‘partners’ from the EU are tyaking the piss and have been freeloading off the UK and to greater extent the USA for decades. They prefer polical union to military realities. Germans build listing Frigates while we build 2 state of the art supercarriers for use with 5th Gen fighters. As we are seeing this week. And the Yanks WANT to be part of it!
We are NO ‘international joke’ and some of us believe it is through Brexit we will achieve even greater things. But unlike you Remainers we are proud of our country and would never run it down for ANY reason let alone political point scoring.

Simon m

Although I agree with most of the sentiment I don’t think “people like you make me puke” is particularly constructive?! Does admin actually review comments on this site?


We do join forces with other comparable countries with like minded outlook.

Look up NATO……………


We are already an extension to the US military.. We can’t do anything without them now.




The 6th biggest economy in the world is not third rate. You probably think we don’t make anything as well but we are the 9th biggest Manufacturer. Please get your facts right before criticising your own country.


A third rate economy?? Are we not 5th biggest economy? It’s MOD/government , no votes in defence till people die

Rob N

The author sounds very defensive about crowsnest at the end of the article. Perhaps he understands that a new touch-screen interface will not make up for an old radar. We should have bought the F35 radar variant. However it was jobs for the boys and a lack of future-prooffing. The Crowsnet can only be considered an interim solution. Crowsnest will not stand the test of time.

A. Smith

I agree that Crowsnest should be regarded as an interim solution and hope we can start planning for an unmanned tiltrotor solution for the carrier’s needs.

Rob N

Is the helicopter’s own radar added to the Crowsnest mission system when it is added to the platform?



andy reeves

during my REGULAR meetings with the local m.p i was told that the merger of AALL of the u.k armed forces is in the air and that a single model of a u.k defence force WAS under consideration. using the u.s marine corps as a model.


Except by the time the MOD pay for the rebranding to create one force it will be cheaper to stay as we are!


I can’t see there being any savings really. There are lots of joint schools. Specialists like pilots already move about. And so on. There are reasons why somebody joins one service or another.


Unless your local MP is also in the cabinet I wouldn’t read too much into it. The Americans used to say that Congress was like a raft floating down the Potomac with 500 rats on it, each thinking he is the one steering. Replace ‘congress’ with ‘parliament’ and ‘Potomac’ with ‘Thames’ and you have much the same situation.


USMC operates its ground and aviation as separate silos….and are just passengers on the US Navy crewed ships
Ask the Canadians how the merged AF worked out….thats not to say there arent some worthwhile gains.

4th watch

I’ve argued for something along those lines for some time. One could start by integrating most of the RAF into the RN. ‘Coming back Home’ would be the catch phrase!


I doubt he could even name his MP let alone meet with him. That’s assuming he’s even British.

Dennis Welch

WHY don’t we supply the kit that is needed for the job,or just disband the armed forces cos they cannot do the job with out the where with all , just pointless,and putting more brave men and women at risk for sod all.

Simon m

I really think this message should be made to the government as people could potentially pay with their lives for this not sure why people are down voting. The same people probably thought snatch land rovers were good enough ☹️

A. Smith

We have, as usual missed an opportunity and failed to look into the future with ambition and should have gone for an unmanned tiltrotor with radar strapped to it’s back for our carriers. Something like the BELL V-247 with a radar which can fly 2500 nm.


That would be 20 yrs away from service if they pour money into it. The carriers need AEW now, and look at the challenges that throws up . Bell V-247 is only a graphic on a computer screen and sources say its combat radius is 450nm…. not 2500nm range.
The little Schweizer based MQ8 can hover at 20,000 ftcomment image

Phillip Johnson

‘Despite organic radar surveillance for the fleet being critical, the start of the Crowsnest project was postponed by the MoD for two years until 2016. This kind of short-term cost-saving……………’…

You put your finger on the problem, the budget and the wants simply do not match up.

Politics is not going to change. The MOD must be close to some form of tipping point where starting project on a hope and a promise of funding simply cannot be sustained any longer.
It is time wishes are put to one side and the MOD starts planning capability on funding they are sure is there.
Too much money is being wasted and the capability being generated is always incomplete. .  

John Marshall

Affordable and attainable perhaps but, severely limited in required operational capability terms.


Care to describe those terms?


For me there are four factors why helicopter solutions are an order of magnitude less capable than fixed wing solutions

1) Operating height which affects radar range
2) Endurance in that a helicopter can stay in the air for a shorter period
3) Availability because helicopters are more complex to maintain so have more down time (made worse by ours also needing to do ASW and plane guard missions)
4) Speed and range meaning that a flight of aircraft on a strike mission will have to operate outside the AEW envelope because a helicopter can’t accompany them


1. Altitude doesn’t affect radar range in the slightest. I think you mean it limits the distance at which sea level targets can be detected. A challenge that of course can be mitigated by locating the AEW platform up threat.

2. Do you even know the endurance of Crowsnest? It’s listed as 5 hours. The E-2 series does about 6. And what does that matter if there are enough to provide 7×24 coverage. As there will be.

3. Crowsnest equipped Merlins will not be doing ASW and plane guard. What on earth makes you think so? They will be available enough to collectively perform 7×24 coverage.

4. F-35’s don’t need that, they are designed for independent strike. Their sensors are more than capable. All an accompanying AEW would do is advertise the strike packages presence and location.

I am not claiming Crowsnest is as good overall as a platform as E-2D, I am protesting the overall lack of any hard data on this thread that supports the idea. Nearly all of the arguments are troll like in their “it’s obvious innit mate?”

By the way, order of magnitude means 10 times worse. That’s absurd.


you mean it limits the distance at which sea level targets can be detected.

Or as we call it in the world of sane, range………

Realtime Jack

5 hrs Ron? I’d love to see a Merlin HM MK2 achieve that duration or do you believe they fly OEI like the story books state? Too much internet and not enough ‘actual’ experience unlike other contributers I think me ole shipmate.


So, if I’ve understood things then, no Crowsnest equipped Merlins are embarked for the forthcoming GROUPEX which is a shame.


I thought I read that 2 Crowsnest Merlin’s we’re embarked for testing but not for operations on exercise. Sorry, I can’t remember the source to confirm that so can’t reliably support this.

Something different

Projects are complex, difficult and often painful hence why they exist or otherwise what they are delivering would be handled in the ‘business as usual’ space. They frequently involve bringing together teams from different organisations and/or distinct sections within the same organisation that need to integrate their different work cultures for a common goal, not always easy even when the organisations have previously worked together.

The business case of a project involves, in effect, making educated guesses on the necessary resources (whether human, financial, technical or otherwise) required to deliver project benefits and timelines to achieve the same. However, when conceived, often these military projects are dealing with very complex technology and, therefore, it is only when the project team is fully formed (usually after the project mandate and business case) that the necessary resource is in-situ to do the detailed planning work (and the breakdown of the products and sub products) to assess the true scale of a project and associated timelines.

Furthermore, the project horizon (the outer edge of what can be done in terms of detailed project planning) can be short especially when there are dependencies on R&D which may not always yield the outcomes you wish in the timeframes you thought (especially in complex endeavours).

It also worth remembering the ‘project triangle’. Much like the AFV triangle of mobility – firepower – protection, you can only really increase a maximum of two of the following at the expense of one other in a project: resource/cost – quality – time. In this case it seems the MOD seemed to want to reduce resource/cost (or at least not let costs increase still further) while maintaining quality (I presume) but this means time has to be the variable that moves. With a finite budget (that often shrinks) combined with a defence establishment that wants to maintain quality (i.e. good plating) then it is unsurprising in defence projects that timelines slip.

Also, an inherent flaw with defence procurement is the lack of competition from suppliers to deliver the required capabilities (especially if they must be sovereign). Therefore, there is little incentive for these companies to improve while the MOD can not readily find an alternative when there are systemic failings in a supplier’s performance.

Please do not construe that I am defending the customer or the supplier per se. I am merely providing some context and explanation not justification.

I do have specific concerns. This is one project in a complex programme designed to deliver ‘carrier strike’. However, as the Falklands demonstrated, airborne early warning is a key component of that capability. I would, therefore, argue that such a system is on the programme’s ‘critical path’ and is a ‘must’ (if you are doing MoSCoW analysis). That programme is arguably delivering a benefit second only in importance to CASD to the Navy. Therefore, unless the shift to the right of the crowsnest project was to provide funds to support CASD then I can not see how it was justified from a corporate objectives point of view.

Last edited 3 years ago by Something different

I would say ASaC / AEW is probably just as important, if not more so than fast air.

We are constantly told Sea Viper is the best AAW system afloat with the best radar. But it can only look up as it were. Everything that is going to be problematic is at wave top. Yet we field a cheap ASaC system. Same as furnishing T45 with a poor ASW fit out. War at sea is three dimensional.

Last edited 3 years ago by X
Something different

I agree, force multipliers are sometimes overlooked in favour of numbers of fast pointy things or things that go bang. The reality there effectiveness is only maximised when the supporting elements are in place.

Simon m

The reason that Sampson is so high & has adaptable beam forming etc is too attempt to solve the issue which is why it cost so mich. But it still can’t compete with AEW. At the end of the day the higher the sensor the better the range & look down capability. A helicopter doesn’t give you this height or the ability to get to the height quickly. It’s s make do that’s robbing us of ASW capability at the same time


As I said further up STOVL carriers have their limits for getting stuff aloft. I think Crowsnest will have a horizon of about 140 mile-ish while E2 has just hundred more miles I think. 4000m against 10,000m in altitude. For me should have built QE for E2 not the jets.

I know about beam forming note I said ‘only looks up as it were’.


Radar horizon at 4,000m is 162 miles, at 10,000 it’s 256 miles.

So if the aircraft is directly above the carrier, this is the warning time for a sea skimmer. But of course, they don’t operate over the ship, they operate up threat so it’s very dependent on where the AEW is located.

But range isn’t everything with radar. Ability to handle jamming, clutter, small fast targets, and small slow targets are just as important.


E2 > Crowsnest


“Also, an inherent flaw with defence procurement is the lack of
competition from suppliers to deliver the required capabilities
(especially if they must be sovereign). Therefore, there is little
incentive for these companies to improve while the MOD can not readily
find an alternative when there are systemic failings in a supplier’s

Absolute bollox. There was a competition,, 2 companies entered and a winner selected. No preference was given to being “sovereign”.

Something different

I see your point to an extent as there were potentially other platforms that could theoretically have been used. However, to quote a StRN article from 17 July 2017 “In the current fiscal climate, Merlin/Cerberus was the only realistic option.” Furthermore, I was making a broader point about military projects in general and the lack of competition in that space (we are not talking mass produced consumer items like smartphones after all) although perhaps I should have made that clearer in my response so apologies for the confusion.

Striking another note, I believe this site’s strength is that it brings together a number of people with diverse points of view (and backgrounds) with an interest in defence matters more generally and the Royal Navy (and its capabilities) in particular. I think the key to sustaining such a community is encouraging reasoned and civil discussion which of course includes disagreements as our assertions should be subject to challenge to ensure they are correct. In my opinion, however, that aim is incompatible with vulgar retorts, although I appreciate the passion, but perhaps I am too old fashioned in that regard.


The nasty smart mouth one liner is Ron5’s limit.


I replied because you expressed an inaccurate opinion as fact. Looking that up in the dictionary, the word “bollox” appeared.

I’m curious as to what other platforms could have been “theoretically used” to meet the MoD’s requirements on cost and schedule.

Something different

That is exactly my point, theoretically other solutions could have been developed (increasing time and cost) but there is a paucity of options for helicopter borne AEW platforms that could be delivered in vaguely acceptable timescales. That lack of competition is indicative across sections of the defence sector (not all obviously, globally there are many assault rifle offerings in comparison). Without competition the incentive to innovate and/or drive costs down is reduced.


Still dying to know what all these other options are or were.

Something different

I think we’re actually on the same page but with some wires crossed? There weren’t really any options out there (there aren’t exactly dozens of different types of AEW choppers on the market) so it would have required starting from scratch, putting a AEW radar on V22 or who knows what to get an alternative to what we have. All probably very expensive and time consuming.


We are. Thumbs up.

andy reeves

can’ help a chuckle at the use of the phrase’carrier strike group’ strike with what? 24 f 35’s and a few tomahawks from a submarine, that wouldn’t bother belgium would it?

Something different

I wish we had increased numbers but we do not while it seems unlikely we will have in the current financial climate.

This is arguably the greatest carrier capability this country has put to sea since the 70’s. Apart from America (which is in a league of its own) which other nations can do the same? France does have one large carrier, but of varying reliability, and only two modern AAW destroyers to escort it. China has two larger carriers (although more are coming) but with SU27 derivatives (for now) on its decks. The Russian carrier’s recent combat performance speaks for itself.

Humpty Dumpty

If this is the best we can do, then it’s a very sad state of affairs.


Yes the ‘strike group’ business is embarrassing. I think some get carried away. I think this is used to excite politicians etc. Large aviation support ship doesn’t sound as exotic.


You must be German if you think invading Belgium is a good idea.


What’s Belgium got to do with it ?


Ron5 lives in his own little world. He does this sort of thing across a good few defence and relates sites.


According to the renowned geopolitical corespondent James May it is “a place invented so that Britain and Germany have somewhere to work out their differences” (although it was possibly Richard Porter who put those words in his mouth). So maybe the question is what do the Germans have to do with it? Are they not passing naval laws these days? With all the Brexit nastiness can they be talked into buying a carrier? Eurocarrier! /s

4th watch

Dont give people ideas.

Humpty Dumpty

Yep, plus F-35s have atrocious sortie rates and can’t carry much ordnance internally. Won’t be getting Meteor til 2024 and doesn’t have air-to-surface missiles with sufficient stand-off range vs S-400 (range 400km).
TLAMs are slow and unstealthy and could easily be shot down.


1: Even though there are clear negatives, such as 2-years delay of start, almost losing one Merlin left un-looked, it is good to see the systems is taking real shape. If now war/conflict happens, they can provide AEW. This fact is VERY important. It is not a fancy “powerpoint” proposal. It exists there. Great work.

2: On the other hand, I do not think they will be extensibly used as AEW assets, especially in its normal deployment. In Persian Gulf, there is a powerful land-based AWACS fleet. In NATO, the same. So, it will be at the “other” places, such as South Atlantic, West Africa, mid-Indian Ocean, part of North Atlantic. Can Merlin AEW be used as land/littoral area monitoring, as SeaKing AEW was used?

3: I do not think developing a dedicated tilt-rotor AEW asset NOW is a good idea. Normal CV-22 is as expensive as a F35. Including development, money needed for “12 units of V22 AEW” will amount to “24 F35s” or even more.

AW609 is very small. US Army new helicopter development is on-going (e.g. V280). New UAVs will be there in a decade. And Merlin replacements will come within two decades. As such, Merlin AEW idea itself looks “not bad” = fine, at least as an interim solution.

4: Sharing airframes with the only 30 ASW Merlin is certainly a concern. But, not easy to find money to buy more airframes. Then, can Merlin HC4 be upgraded to accept AEW role? Of course it is doable, but can it be “so-so” cheap to do it?

A Merlin fleet of 30 HM2 (all can be added with AEW-kit), 25 HC4 (if 10 of which be modified to be able to use AEW-kit). Then the tension will be relaxed? I know HC4 number is also tight. But, in real war, requirement for “ASW”, “AEW” and “Assault” may NOT come at once? (although two of them may).


Though I understand your point about convenient land based AEW / ASaC assets (of which we are short too) it does sort of defeat the reason for having a carrier. We might as well as have bought a few billion pounds worth of AEW and AAR planes. 🙂


Thanks. I personally think, as QNLZ and POW are STOVL carrier, not having E2D-level of AEW is acceptable. Merlin AEW is “so-so good” for self defense Anti-Air-Warfare. T45 and F35s will provide fairly good AAW capability.

Possible reduction in E-7 number is a big big problem, though. Big problem. Much more high priority than a few F35s, I think.


So if we have built 30,000 tonners a few chap with binoculars would have been OK then?

Are you OK with Sea Viper being better than AEGIS as T45 are smaller than Burkes?

You argument makes no sense. We need the best system we can put in the air in an age of hypersonic stealth missiles.


Uhmm, a bit misunderstanding (or my mis-writing) of my comment.

My point is, adding a detachment of V22AEW as capable as E2D is very expensive. Including the development cost, “STOVL CVF + V22AEW” will cost more than a CATOBAR carrier with E2D. RN was not able to build it, so not able to carry E2D-level AEW is the result from that decision, not the Crowsnest.

# In ideal world, there must have been 3 CATOBAR CVF supported by 40 escorts and 20 SSNs, and 150+ F35C, 30+ E2D, 30+ V22 (for COD and AAR), and other aircrafts.

For the time being, having a working AEW in the sky is a very great thing. RN was relying solely on T45 in this “supersonic” missile era = starting from late 2000s until now. Now it is significantly improved. Great. This is what I meant. Also, to counter hypersonic missile, it is not clear if E2D-like AEW is the answer (might be a more high-altitude IR-scanner UAV?).

# If, big if, for example, JMSDF start looking for V22AEW, UK may be able to share the development cost and then V22AEW will become a good candidate. But it will need nearly a decade. But, as such, it will be near the timing of Merlin OSD. When thinking about Merlin replacement, I think these options (including V22, V280 or UAVs, or something new) will come in.

Last edited 3 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

I will leave it Donald. 🙂

We have what we have. We could have done better.


Both the E2D and Crowsnest equipped Merlin will help provide early warning of a hypersonic missile attack. The main point is the majority of these types of weapon use a large rocket booster to punch them up above 50,000ft where less energy is required to overcome atmospheric drag. At this altitude the S1850M radar will easily detect the rocket/missile combo. When the missile detaches and speeds towards its target at Mach 5+, Sampson will have no issues tracking the target. At some point the missile will need to activate is active radar, so the ships ESM will detect it also. The missile will either perform a steep attack at the ship or will need to slow down if it approaches at sea level. A T45 “should”, using its Viper missiles, be able to shoot down the missile or using active/passive countermeasures steer it away from the ship.

Humpty Dumpty

Without Aster 30 Block 1NT I don’t see how Type 45s are going to shoot down ballistic anti-ship missiles approaching at hypersonic speeds from above. And especially if they’re manoeuvrable.

As for ECM that might work (although radar burn-through is a thing) – has the ESM ever been tested against such missiles? Would Siren or IrvinGQ floating decoys work? Again, have they been tested against such fast missiles?

Subject to stringent realistic testing, I’d like to see the Type 45s fitted with microwave weapons to burn out the electronics in anti-ship missiles as well as Dragonfire to blind or burn out the sensors on these missiles. Main guns firing HVPs at Mach 3 might be able to take out such missiles.

And for sea-skimming missiles, Oerlikon Millennium Guns with AHEAD ammo and OTO Melara 76mm guns with DART and PFF ammo would be sensible additions.

Supportive Bloke

“ Subject to stringent realistic testing, I’d like to see the Type 45s fitted with microwave weapons to burn out the electronics in anti-ship missiles as well ”

That is the offensive EW function of a high powered radar……

The pulse power will be 100’s of kW so 100’s of microwave ovens worth!!

Humpty Dumpty

I’ve read that powerful radars can burn out electronics. Do you have a source for this this so I can read up on it? I’d especially like to know the effective range.


NO, systems like the S1850 and Sampson will have a published power/range performance. But in reality they will be better and this and will be highly classified, if not secret. The ability of high power radars to interfere with electronics is well known. In its most basic form it is high power electromagnetic interference (EMI). This happens because the copper tracks on circuit boards act as antennas. This can be mitigated by double shielding the boards within a metal box, i.e. Faraday cage.

The E3D is a good example of this problem. The Northrop Grumman AN/APY-2 is now long in the tooth, but as a radar with a heritage of nearly 50 years it is still very capable. It is a Passive Electronically Steered Array (PESA) radar that is mechanically rotated. It operates in the S band (2 to 4 Ghz) and has a large transmitter output power to give it a “more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) detection range”. When you see aircraft flying in formation with the aircraft for photo shoots, the radar will not be transmitting. Not sure on other aircraft types, but it was found, especially with Tornado F3s, that the radar would interfere with the aircraft’s systems, when flying close to the Sentry. Even when the aircraft were flying in the so called blind spot below and behind the wings. The AN/APY-2 is supposed to have pretty good side lobe suppression, yet not enough to prevent it interfering with other nearby aircraft.

The Tornado F3 had the AI24 Foxhunter radar. This was a traditional mechanical steered pulse doppler radar that operated in the X band (8 to 12 GHz). It had a published range of 185 km. Its primary function was to discover Tu22 bomber type aircraft and attack them using Sky Flash semi-active homing missiles. With a semi-active missile seeker, you have to use your radar to guide the missile all the way to the target. Therefore, having a radar with a very long range massively helps, as it allows to to search for and track multiple targets. The Foxhunter, had a number of issues in early production but these were all sorted through time. There were certain rules of operating the radar on the ground in the open. You could only operate it in safe zones that allowed the radar to be pointed in a safe direction. Nobody was allowed to be within a cone of 100m when operating the radar, as it would quite literally fry you (cook your insides). The safe directions were planned, so that the radar would not interfere with civilian housing or businesses. There had to be lots of warnings that a test was going to be conducted as the radar easily could damage equipment and was harmful to life.

Humpty Dumpty

Well that was a long reply to not say very much. If ALL radars were deadly at range then the moment a radar is turned on by an aircraft, ground-based radar system or by civilian air traffic control, then every aircraft in its range would get its electronics fried and fall out of the sky. Obviously this doesn’t happen, which is why I specifically asked at what range powerful radars could effectively be used as a weapon.
And the same goes for microwave weapons.

Humpty Dumpty

The F-35s have an atrocious sortie rate and won’t carry Meteor until 2024 (and even then won’t be able to carry many of them). With just 12 or 24 F-35s I think it’s highly likely that there will be times when we can’t get any in the air when we need them in the air.

Therefore it would make sense to buy some Harriers for redundancy. Upgrade them with AESA radar, IRST, the DASS system that Typhoons use and Meteor and IRIS-T.

It would also make sense to develop extremely long ranged anti-air missiles (longer ranged than Oniks fired from aircraft) that can accelerate in their terminal phase like Meteor can. This would keep enemy fighters at arm’s length and prevent them from getting into range to fire anti-ship missiles.

In fact all our missiles lack range. We need very long ranged anti-ship missiles that are longer ranged than Russian or Chinese anti-ship missiles like Kalibr, Oniks, Zircon and YJ-18.

The F-35s need long-ranged stand-off weapons (e.g. JASSM-ER or better) (and also need anti-ship missiles that can be carried internally).

And there wouldn’t be much point sticking VL-ASROC on Type 26s. We need an anti-sub missile that can take out subs before they can get into range to fire torpedoes.

Edit: Oh and the Type 45s need Aster 30 Block 1NT to take out ballistic anti-ship missiles. I’d remove the Aster 15s and quad-pack CAMMs in their place. I only recently learnt that CAMMs can be quad-packed in Sylver cells. A Type 45 could carry say 30 Aster 30s, 6 Aster 30 Block 1NTs and 48 quad-packed CAMMs in its 48 Sylver cells. Add a Mk41 VLS and you could carry even more quad-packed CAMMs.

Last edited 3 years ago by Humpty Dumpty

If carriers do not need organic AEW, I wonder what all those US E-2’s are doing that constantly fly above US carriers. Even in the Gulf.

I fear a lot of the Crowsnest criticism on this thread is because “it’s obvious a helicopter based system can’t be as good, can it mate?” rather than any objective analysis of the system. Prejudice in other words.

I wonder what the Japanese Navy will do for AEW when it has F-35B’s on its carriers.


I’m no expert on the Japanese Armed Forces but I’d imagine they’ll rely heavily on their Aegis destroyers and land based AEW aircraft which is probably more viable than it might seem as their operational doctrine focuses heavily on being a defensive shield around the home islands in the Sea of Japan and Yellow Sea rather than projecting power long distance.


They could build their own. The Italians have an AEW system for their Merlins.


@Challenger I think you may be right


No. Crowsnest is small. E2 is much, much bigger.

Aren’t you the idiot who once told me that we only need enough ASaC / AEW to cover that carrier. And I was ‘reaching’ to say we needed more.

I fear beyond specs on Wikipedia you don’t know much.

Humpty Dumpty

There are 3 F-35 variants. They don’t all cost the same and the often quoted figure for “an F-35” is generally the cheapest A variant and the flyaway cost at that which just gets you an airframe and an engine. The cost for a fully functioning weapons system is over $101 million for the F-35A, over $123 million for the F-35C and over $166 million for the F-35B, so saying an Osprey is as expensive as an F-35 is incorrect.


So one of the Merlins was left out in the weather, causing it to be basically useless? While hangers are desirable when available, an aircraft parked out in the elements should not in itself ruin an aircraft. Were access panels left open? Was there damage from high winds? This makes little sense.
And one wonders, why were the Sea Kings not retained in service until the Merlins/ Crows Nest kit are ready for operational service? It is called transition. What a daft mess.

Flip flop

Mega simple

The MOD will keep on with their habit of late projects and kicking projects down the road until some of us come back in flag draped coffins

Happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and it will happen next in the maritime domain


Happened in the Falklands as well where 1970’s designed Type 21’s went to war with a 1950’s SAM system, Type 42’s had no low level AAW defences despite their SAM being ineffective below 20 metres and RFA landing ships with hundreds of personnel on board only had a couple of WW2 are bofors guns for protection

Last edited 3 years ago by Sunmack

By the late 70’s the RN was very much focused on ASW in the Eastern Atlantic.

Sea Dart was more about taking Soviet MPA out than facing regiments of Soviet bombers.

And so it understandable that the majority of the fleet was not equipped for short range and ‘wave top’ air defence. We dumped cannon on powered mounts far too soon. It interesting to compare the RN of the day with Italian (and French) navies of that time. Large Italian ships would have 5in gun and then multiple 76mm mounts. And they still do it today because smart munitions and computer layed guns mean the cannon is very effective. It is a shame T45 didn’t keep the 76mm mounts of its Horizon cousins.

Humpty Dumpty

Yeah OTO Melara 76mm guns with DART and PFF ammo would provide two useful layers of defence against anti-ship missiles, as would Oerlikon Millennium Guns. Ideally they’d be deck penetrating with fast auto reloaders. Phalanx is far too short-ranged and lacks ammo and needs to be retired. Firing HVPs from main guns would be good too: Mach 3 and a range of 80+km (50+ miles) from what I’ve read. Assuming HVPs are accurate enough, or can be made accurate enough, that would provide a cheaper way to take out anti-ship missiles at range than using Asters or CAMMs.


In theory we will have a good air defence in the near future with fighters and AEW, SeaViper, SeaCeptor, and EW with some Bofors 40mm and 57mm, and even Phalanx (as you say limited) scattered about. But more guns would be useful.

It is a shame our T26 won’t be outfitted to the levels of the RAN’s.

Humpty Dumpty

I’m concerned that with just 12-24 F-35Bs, combined with their poor sortie rate, that we won’t always be able to get them in the air when we need them in the air. Plus they won’t have Meteor til 2024.

Merlin Crowsnest lacks speed, altitude and range compared to Hawkeye or AEW Osprey. Plus do we have enough Merlins for 24/7 AEW?

The Type 45s lack Asters and don’t have Aster 30 Block 1NT to take out ballistic anti-ship missiles. They could also do with two Oerlikon Millennium Guns, an OTO Melara 76mm and Mk41 VLS. When they go in for their propulsion fixes would be the ideal time to upgrade them.

As for CAMMs, it would make sense to use CAMM-ER instead and fit all our ships with Mk41 VLS for quad-packed standard CAMMs as a second layer of defence.

As for EW, has it ever been tested against anti-ship missiles? Radar burn-through is a thing, and any missiles using IR-homing in the terminal phase would be immune to EW and most decoys. Modern missiles can filter out flares, so it would make sense to develop a ship-based version of DIRCM to confuse missiles that use IR-guided missiles. And/or fit MASS decoys.

The Bofors 40mm and 57mm will only be on the Type 31s, which I expect will be used to escort commercial ships in the Persian Gulf. Without significantly uparming them they couldn’t form part of a carrier group as what would they contribute apart from 12 CAMMs?

I’d replace Phalanx with Oerlikon Millennium Guns on all RN and RFA ships. Phalanx is well past its use-by date.

As for the Aussie Hunter class having a better fit-out, I’d rather we built our Type 26s with the same radars as Type 45s and fitted them with Aster 30, Aster 30 Block 1NT and quad-packed CAMMs. They’re far too expensive to defend with CAMMs alone.

Last edited 3 years ago by Humpty Dumpty

The RN is perhaps the world’s foremost EW user. Yes it is for use against missiles.

F35’s sensor suite is very good. But it isn’t a substitute for an AEW platform. Despite what many here think.

For 24/7 Merlin you need 4 to 5 for 1. Speed isn’t really a problem. Height isn’t good. Osprey is a technical nightmare.

Humpty Dumpty

“The RN is perhaps the world’s foremost EW user.”
What are you basing this on? I’d have thought the foremost user would be the US.

“Yes it is for use against missiles.”
Well, yeah, considering that’s its purpose. But what missiles has the UAT on the Type 23s and Type 45s been tested against? What speed missiles? And how stringent and realistic were the tests? Have any tests even been conducted? [The only test I’ve come across so far in relation to CAMM is against a slow sub-sonic Mirach drone – hardly a hard test to pass. And yes I’m aware this has nothing to do with EW. My point is that if the RN sets such a low bar for testing, it doesn’t fill me with confidence when it comes to other systems. Are we going to have to wait for a war to see if these systems work properly?]

“F35’s sensor suite is very good.”
Well on paper, yeah. The F-35 is riddled with over 800 unresolved problems though, many of them software problems, so only an actual war will reveal how well (or not) an F-35’s sensor fusion and data links work in reality. Plus the F-35 has serious cyber security issues, so that’s something that could be exploited in a war.

“But it isn’t a substitute for an AEW platform.”
I didn’t say it was.

“For 24/7 Merlin you need 4 to 5 for 1.”
I don’t know what that means.

“Speed isn’t really a problem. Height isn’t good.”
The faster an AEW aircraft is (and the longer its range), the quicker it can get far from the ship to provide AEW coverage. I’d have though speed was an important factor.

“Osprey is a technical nightmare.”
In what respects? Using Ospreys for AEW would not only provide better AEW, but also free up Merlins for ASW duties.

There were several issues I raised in my previous comment that you didn’t address.


EW RN- knowledge. How much exposure have you had to the RN beyond books and web?

EW missiles – what do you think guides missiles? What other purpose could it have?

F35 – has a state of the art sensor set. I never said there weren’t problems.

F35 (2) – many on sites like this F35 could be an AEW subsitute

5 for 1 – to have one available full time 24 hours per day.

Speed of AEW – most aircraft do several hundred knots per hour. How far up threat do you want to go when the task group is moving at best at 20 knots. And the centre of operation is the task group. Speed isnt’ a problem. Aircraft move a lot faster than ships.

Osprey – is a very complex aircraft to look after. But build wise, especially when it comes to software it has proved to be a nightmare. Somebody once said that each USMC cab was essentially a sub-type in its own right it was so difficult to keep software in line. Does it not look complex to you?

Humpty Dumpty

“EW RN- knowledge. How much exposure have you had to the RN beyond books and web?”

None. I’ve never been in the RN. I fail to see the relevance of your question though.

Firstly, the vast majority of people on a ship have no dealings with an EW system whatsoever and even those that do, is that as operators or experts? Is there anyone on a RN ship that can repair a malfunctioning EW system or would the ship have to go back to port for repairs?

Secondly, surely the EW experts are the civilians who design and build the systems, not the RN crew members who use them?

Thirdly, what’s YOUR expertise when it comes to EW systems on RN ships? And don’t say “I can’t talk about it”.

“EW missiles – what do you think guides missiles?”

Dunno, is it pixie dust?
What kind of a question is that?

The missile guidance methods I’m familiar with are:

  • – Satellites (GPS, Galileo, GLOSNASS, BeiDou)
  • – INS
  • – IR
  • – Lasers
  • – Radars (active, semi-active, passive)
  • – TV cameras
  • – TERCOM & DSMAC (for land-attack missiles)

I might have missed some, but not all those methods can be thwarted by an EW suite if that’s what you were getting at. And even when it comes to radar, burn-through is a thing, so if a missile uses active radar homing in its terminal phase then an EW suite may not work.

“F35 – has a state of the art sensor set. I never said there weren’t problems.”

A *supposedly* state-of-the-art sensor suite that has never been put to the test in real warfare.

Can F-35s detect enemy aircraft that have a sophisticated EW suite? If not, the F-35 has a substandard IRST system that is inferior to the Legion Pod that can be fitted to legacy fighters, so that won’t help F-35s at all to detect enemy aircraft BVR.

All that leaves is TV camera tracking, which obviously won’t work at all in cloudy or foggy conditions and won’t work well in hazy, overcast and rainy conditions.

Plus the F-35 is riddled with over 800 unresolved problems, many of them software related:
“A new document obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) shows that the F-35 program office has made little progress in fixing the fighter jet’s hundreds of design flaws, and continues to discover more of them. The Joint Strike Fighter Program Office’s Deficiency Report Metrics document, dated February 28, 2020, shows the program is currently dealing with 883 unresolved design flaws—and has no plan for correcting over 160 of them. More than half, 448 deficiencies, remain “open, in dispute.” This means pilots or engineers believed they found a problem, but the contractors tasked with fixing the problems are claiming no problem exists. Multiple sources inside the F-35 program told POGO that the default response from the program’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, to any identified shortcoming is to say that the company’s design meets contract specifications, and that any further changes can only be made with a contract modification. In other words, the contractors will not fix the design flaws until the government pays for the changes. More worrying are the 162 deficiencies listed as “open, no planned correction.””

And in any case, an aircraft is only as good as the missiles it carries. The F-35 doesn’t currently carry Meteor, so it doesn’t really matter how good (or not) its sensor suite is if it doesn’t have the ability to take out enemy aircraft. Unlike AIM-120, Meteor can accelerate in its terminal phase and has a no-escape zone of 60km. British F-35Bs will be getting Meteor in 2024. Why it takes 4 years to fit missiles that already exist and are already used by Typhoons boggles my mind. F-35s could also do with IRIS-T (which Typhoons also use), because unlike AIM-9X it has the unique ability that it can shoot down air-to-air missiles and SAMs, which would make F-35s more survivable. Fitting F-35s with a dedicated IRST system would also be very sensible.

“F35 could be an AEW subsitute”

How? We currently only have about 17 F-35Bs and they have an atrocious sortie rate of a third of a sortie a day. We can only launch 5 F-35Bs a day. Not an hour, a day. That’s abysmal. And even if we had 60 F-35Bs on the QE and they could perform 1 sortie each a day, they’re so expensive to fly per hour that it would be totally impractical to use F-35s for AEW. And in any case, their job is flying CAP, not performing AEW.

“5 for 1 – to have one available full time 24 hours per day.”

Really? Are you talking about 24/7 Merlin AEW support or ASW support? Or both? Do you have a source or sources for this? How many Merlins do we currently have for AEW and ASW? Are you saying we need 5 times as many to guarantee we can have 1 in the air at any one time? If that were the case, wouldn’t the QE flight deck be covered in Merlins with no space for anything else?

“Speed of AEW – most aircraft do several hundred knots per hour. How far up threat do you want to go when the task group is moving at best at 20 knots.”

As far up threat as possible as fast as possible. That would provide the best early warning. The speed a carrier group moves at is irrelevant. What IS releveant is the speed that enemy aircrat fly at and the anti-ship missiles they can carry and the range they can be fired from. Russia has anti-ship missiles that can be fired beyond the range of Aster 30. The sooner they’re detected and taken out by F-35s the better. Always better to shoot the archer than the arrows.

“And the centre of operation is the task group.”

I don’t know what this means or what point you’re making.

“Osprey – is a very complex aircraft to look after. But build wise, especially when it comes to software it has proved to be a nightmare.”

But you think the F-35 is fine despite being riddled with over 800 unresolved problems? The mind boggles.
What specific Osprey problems are you referring to? Provide links.

“Somebody once said that each USMC cab was essentially a sub-type in its own right”

Who said this? Source? And what do you mean by “cab”?

“it was so difficult to keep software in line.”

Well, yeah, because the F-35 is riddled with software problems. First you dispute that and now you’re saying what I’ve been saying from the get-go. You’re not making much sense.

“Does it not look complex to you?”

Does WHAT not look complex to me?

And yet again there were several issues I raised in my previous comment that you didn’t address. That’s two comments now where you’ve ignored issues I’ve raised.

John Wood

« Several hundred knots per hour »
Stopped right there.

Humpty Dumpty

Yep and we had no AEW at all. Plus Atlantic Conveyor had no defences at all, just like our Point-class ships now.


 1970’s designed Type 21’s “
Not so . The Type 21 was designed in the mid 1960s ( 1st of class ordered 1969). The Seacat version they had was the GWS-24 a much improved system over the ‘late 50s ‘ version you talk about including automatic radar guidance and firing ( Blindfire) in addition to the more manual systems.
The Fearless class LSD had an earlier Seacat but Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram type LSL did not ( both were RFA manned so should have had protection with warships, but werent due to a failure of command)

What didnt happen was the ‘light Seawolf ‘ version in a midlife update, a number of proposals were rejected around 1979 and they never had an update, although it wouldnt have changed much in the Falklands . The Fearless class


There were reasons why it earned the name SeaMouse. It was barely adequate, but not as bad as some think.

If systems had been available there is no reason why they couldn’t have been fitted to RFA’s.


All missiles of that era were barely adequate mainly as electronics were in their infancy. But it was first western point defence missile which UK should be proud of and more importantly was further developed

The reason why the ‘Sirs’ class wasnt fitted with point defence and was RFA manned was they were more supply chain delivery of equipment vessels . Never intended to land even equipment under the watch of opposing forces let alone troops and the lack of even an elderly frigate with some point defence missiles or guns under the control of radar is incompetence.
Apparently early warnings were available of Argentine strike planes leaving their bases so there was some time till they arrived at unknown targets ( the islands are so small so any place could be). No real reasons were given for the lack of action on these early warnings( even without airborne AEW) which like politicians cover ups, means its to protect the top commanders.


Original the Sirs weren’t even RFA and started life supporting the Army directly in a splendid livery of cream hull with a lovely blue band.

I would humbly suggest that the RFA’s didn’t receive much AA fit out was budgetary and nothing to do with RFA manning.

You do know RFA officers can and do often undertake PWO training?

The AEW came from SSN’s off the Argentinian coast. Not the best source.

RFA Fort Victoria: If you look amidship atop of that deck house you can see the ‘not activated’ Sea Wolf silo………

comment image

Sir Bedivere in Army trooping livery……


I think we should call it a day on crows nest and migrate the technology onto a UAV like this:

Ultimately something that can go high and long and that we can put 4 up at once if needed.


Can eVTOL go higher than Merlin, at the same time carrying the same-sized radar ?

Last edited 3 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

And the same size crew of human fighter directors?

John Wood

Reachback went time-expired about 30 years ago, somebody tell the bloody Navy!!

Glass Half Full

This is the type of platform that may replace Merlin in due course for AEW, perhaps in the 2030’s as an unmanned platform when the technology is more mature. More of a hybrid, with the turboshaft engine generating electrical power for electric lift and propulsion engines plus avionics.

This specific example, while targeted to operate at up to 22,000 ft (used to be listed in the online specs) with a ~2,500kg payload for VTOL ops, has a turboshaft engine similar in power to a single Wildcat engine. A more powerful platform might be needed to vertically lift and perhaps power a step up in radar capability, although those are mutually exclusive electrical loads, so perhaps the radar power requirement would be largely irrelevant while in horizontal flight. Much lower powered turboprop UAVs already operate much higher.

Of course, this capability might also be achieved with a manned V-280 platform, or V-247 or similar if it eventuates, but for very long endurance, unmanned might be preferred, even with V-280. An eVTOL hybrid platform would seem to simplify the mechanical systems to potentially provide greater availability and reliability.

Last edited 3 years ago by Glass Half Full

Why that got a down vote I don’t know.

Looks interesting.

Same cargo capacity as a Merlin.



Thanks, interesting concept.

Unmanned version of V-280 might be a good rival? Anyway, these types of “Merlin replacements” will be needed within a decade (decision) and two decades (procurement), I agree.

Glass Half Full

V-280 would seem to be the closest to operational status especially with a marinised version for the USMC, assuming it wins the FLRAA competition. FARA is targeted to be optionally manned so its at least conceivable that V-280 might support the option too. Optionally manned also enables a lower risk migration path to fully unmanned operations.

As you say, with Merlin OSD in 2030, with perhaps an OSD extension to 2040, the mid-2030’s should probably be the target for an AEW variant IOC.

Possible advantages of the Rhaegal RG-1 type of solution for the UK is the potential to build such a platform in the UK and perhaps use a radar technology derivative from the Captor-E (ECRS Mk2). Leonardo UK have been largely responsible for the ECRS and have a strong track record in helicopter surveillance radar. Also an eVTOL derived from a commercial platform would be significantly less expensive, with BAES, Rolls Royce and presumably Leonardo (UK or elsewhere) all interested in eVTOL development.
We shall have to be patient and see.

A. Smith

I think an unmanned tiltrotor solution (E.g. BELL V-247) would also be a good option. Either way, an unmanned STOVL solution would be the way forward.

Another interesting concept worth mentioning is:

It does make me wonder why we have such huge capability gaps in defence equipment when small companies are designing and building solutions we could be using. There is no strategy or forward planning at all.


Because brochures arent actual hardware and capability now .

Fisher took existing hull designs and married that with existing guns(12 in) and turbines and put them together- very quickly- in a different way. None of that was possible from ‘small companies’.
The real breakthrough to fully utilise the designs came later with centralised firing and mechanical fire control ‘computers’ which did involve small companies.


You got to love these Internet sites. Just read the latest UKDJ Thread. Oh blimey just what drugs are they taking ?


X….. are you on there ? just asking .


I am here. Beyond basic news UKDJ isn’t very good.


Ha, there are a few on that site that seem to be permanently stationed , ready to post 24/7 and it contains more armchair Admirals than HMS Raleigh, Drake and Nelson combined. Many a Battle is won after the Grog ration hour. Not posted there for years but still look in for a laugh.


Nothing wrong with fantasy fleets, we all do it. What does sites damage is the ravings of loons like Ron5 and similar. And mystery downvoters who down vote facts. We won’t make much change on sites like this. But at least we can be civil.


With 10 Crowsnest kits being acquired this gives a lot of options for deployment that are not carrier related. With the RN adopting a forward deployment strategy imagine having a Crowsnest kit forward deployed also.

Recently there has been a lot of RAF activity of deploying surveillance assests in the Black Sea. This requires considerable planning and tanker support etc. If an RN ship is tasking in the Black Sea with an embarked Crowsnest this would further enhance this surveillance.

Crowsnest flexibilitly of being able to operate from any suitable ship flight deck and not being restricted to a carrier deck (like Hawkeye is) should not be overlooked.


There is enough work for two groups. One to be with carrier and one elsewhere as you suggest. And in wartime the second flight could cover a second task group.

But 10 isn’t enough.


Black Sea can use land based surveillance if RN vessels are there. The carriers will never go there due to treatys covering warships that transit the straits.

Anyway any ship based helicopter widens the circumference of surveillance of the ship its based on merely on getting the extra height above SL. For carriers the extra early warning gives them time to respond with offensive action which a frigate of destroyer doesnt do ( in a general sense), it only defends

William Pellas

This may have been covered elsewhere, but I am curious why little or no consideration seems to have been given to purchasing some V-22s for the AEW/AWACS/ISR role? Is it because doing so would create another supply chain with more potential for delays and duplication, and so the RN and MOD decided on fitting Crowsnest to some Merlin helos? That makes some sense if so, but: the V-22 is a very versatile aircraft and it would offer some capabilities that the Merlins don’t.

John Wood

This is a crock of shite waiting in the wings. If you had to consider the absolute worst platform for an organic AEW then the helo would, unquestionably, be it. The idea of mounting 24 hr OASS using Merlin is a perfect joke. The support requirement for this, and the F35, will be simply overwhelming. “Mechanically scanned” Jesus!! The Andrew HAS to wake up to the realities of CEC enabled warfare and invest in a ship/ aircraft combination that can provide BACN facilities to the CBG. That means screwtop, or a blimp. It is salutory to recall Navy ordered F35 for “deep strike”. the aircraft is simply not up to it. If many of the folks here knew how long a “b” can hold a cap at just 80 nm they would have a heart attack!

John Wood

Given that Japan, and France, seems to be capable of purchasing and deploying Screwtop, why, precisely, has the Navy gone for a “one horse” carrier that is incompatible with any other aircraft other than F35b. Can we be absolutely certain that a halo is an excellent platform for deploying organic AEW? and can we be sure that the resultant radar is going to be as capable as the APY-9 ( answers please without laughing)
A follow up; How is the RN or UK Gov to afford Block 4 software, “ODIN” and the new adaptive engine for this crock?