Vigilance Pods for CROWSNEST?

Although all 30 of the upgraded helicopters will be able to perform the task, courtesy of the Lockheed-built Vigilance mission suite fitted as part of the Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme, only 10 of the ASaC systems – from either Lockheed or Thales – will be purchased.

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=””]

via Flight Global.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
July 24, 2013 5:23 pm

Interesting choice of words there, the article appears to indicate that the electronics suite on the helicopters is called vigilance and from LM, that LM is as a result overseeing the addition of the capability, and that LM is then also bidding for the radar bits.

Certainly sounds like the pods are in the running though which is good to hear, I’ve got a feeling though that 10 sets might be an optimistic number to account for later budget cuts. Can anyone remember how many ASaC7’s they’re replacing?

July 24, 2013 6:12 pm

Personally I think it’s just poor reporting and it’s just plain wrong / badly worded and what it means is that LM’s proposal would mean all of the HM2 fleet would be upgraded so they could carry the pods, if they are chosen as the winning solution.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 24, 2013 6:31 pm

13 – but that includes all airframes including those in “depth”.

Mike R
Mike R
July 24, 2013 6:35 pm

According to Naval Technology online we ordered a total of thirteen ASaC7’s of which all were delivered. We later lost two but they were replaced.

The whole LM project sounds very interesting but I would love to know the range of these pods as I would imagine they won’t be as far as a Bagger’s. Saying that, a higher flying F-35B would obviously get more range still and an E-3 Sentry flying from a land base or a Predator fitted with a Selex Seaspray 7500E radar would be even better. I will certainly be keeping an eye on this one for further developments.

Rocket Banana
July 24, 2013 7:02 pm

Well, E3 has a 1MW class radar, ASaC7 had a 65KW radar and Vigilance consumes 25KW so can’t put out anything more. I assume there will be two pods per cab so that’s a maximum of 50KW. However, it’s AESA so should provide better “resolution” than its power suggests. Some say 100 miles.

July 24, 2013 7:14 pm

@Mike R: the Vigilance radar is the same as that in the F35

July 24, 2013 9:07 pm

‘It is open architecture, which basically means you can plug in a whole heap of new sensors, equipment, weapons and communications through one heart that is the mission system — what we’ve called Vigilance,’ David Stanton, business development manager at Lockheed Martin, told The Engineer.

Read more:

The intention was/is for the aew sensor to be installed in a couple of hours this had not been possible with he initial Thales design which they then went back to have a look at installing the system on I think the torpedo rails.

The radar maybe the apg 80 which the f16 aesa not the f35 one

Defence Analyst
July 25, 2013 1:14 am

As I understand it LM will provide the radar utilising a 4 pod system to give 360 degree picture. This would then be fed into an updated Thales Cerburus mission system. Obviously this increases the integration risk but the MoD like the Cerburus system they have been using in the current Asac aircraft. More worryingly There is also going to be a capability shortfall between the sea king retireing and the merlin entering service.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
July 25, 2013 1:49 am

I hope that 2 Vigilance pods don’t run into the same problem that Boeing ran into with the top hat linear arrays on the RAAF (and Korean and Turkish) AEW&C aircraft. Good performance on either beam, limited performance fore and aft.
Given the vigilance pod either contains the APG-80 (F-16) ASEA radar or the APG-81 (F-35) it would be nice to know what the beam to beam performance of those radars are. Bet it isn’t EFFECTIVE 180+ degrees cover which you would need for a 360 degree search.

A bit of real flight testing needed I suggest!

July 25, 2013 7:05 am

Very interesting. It would be great if All HM2’s could carry the system as we would save the need for a separate fleet of 13 aircraft. I like the POD idea but it all comes down to range at the end of the day.

Rocket Banana
July 25, 2013 9:02 am

Aussie Johnno,

You could be right about poor fore/aft capability unless what “Defence Analyst” says is true and we end up with 4 of the blighters on each aircraft! Sounds expensive to me though. Perhaps it would be an option?

July 25, 2013 9:54 am

This report is reasonably detailed

“The alternative is Lockheed Martin’s Vigilance system. This uses a pair of Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 active, electronically scanned array radars from the F-35 Lightning II, fitted in pods, one on each side of the aircraft. Each array is capable of providing 120 deg. of coverage. To achieve the full 180 deg., the radar will be mounted on a 30-deg. pintle.”

Peter Elliott
July 25, 2013 10:01 am

10 sets seems to me a reasonable number to sustain a deployed flight of 3 or 4 indefinitley with the possibility to send the occasional ‘extra’ out with a single ship.

And if we ever do have a total crisis and need to get two carrier groups to sea for a short period then there’s enough for that too.

July 25, 2013 10:14 am

There are always going to be problems when mounting array type radars, this is why Sampson is both electronically and mechanically scanned and why the Wedgetail has issues with coverage fore and aft. Phased arrays simply cannot scan at ninety degrees to the array face; this is a region called the ‘endfire’ and it applies to any array, even towed sonar arrays. A better solution would the original Searchwater 2000, which had none of those limitations and was good enough to deliver aerial surveillance as well as ground radar mapping and MTI. However, the new mission system is clearly good enough to process the additional input; its still a shame that we lose the Thales Cerberus mission suite, which was designed by Royal Navy Observers and was extremely user friendly and rapid. Better something than nothing though, and the flexibility of the HM2 fleet is no small improvement.

July 25, 2013 10:40 am

The opportunity to look at fitting the vigalence pod to our C130 J with a roll on roll off system should also not be over looked. could give us a fairly decent MPA capability using existing aircraft. Not as good as a dedicated platform but better thn nothing and probably good enough especially if we could figure out a role on role off torpedo and sonar buoy dispenser. I suppose the coverage ark of the radars could be compensated for with the flight path. probably easier to do in a helo than for an E3.

Rocket Banana
July 25, 2013 10:42 am

From what I can glean the difference between the APG80 and 81 is 1000 and 1200 elements (of the same type). This gives about a 10% improvement in detection range, so from about 80 to 88nm for a fighter, which is less than SearchWater’s 100nm or so. What we really need is the AESA from the F22 or F15 (APQ181?) which are slightly better than SearchWater.

In my mind it seems to defeat the point of an AESA radar having it move (more to go wrong). I get it with SAMPSON, but would prefer a fully rotating APG80/81 rather than one that flips from side to side wearing out the hinge and servo… or just use SearchWater ;-)

July 25, 2013 11:11 am

@ Simon, I agree search water is better but if it means dedicated platforms vs a roll on roll of system with Vigilance then I think the cost savings out way the performance decrease.

Rocket Banana
July 25, 2013 11:34 am


The roll-on, roll-off idea is very valuable but not if the moving parts make the unit unreliable and/or we need 2-4 of them on a single cab.

What about a fully rotating version of the APG81 lowered through the sonar hole? This means the same base platform can be used for AEW or ASW but would require a bit of time in the hangar to swap things about if it’s actually needed. 3 AEW + 6 ASW + 1 spare to be configured as requried = 10 Merlin.

July 25, 2013 11:50 am

4 AEW, 6 ASW, and 2 floaters for 12.

EDIT: The screen will be “carrying” most of the ASW “load”. 4 airframes means 1 always available-ish. More important for CVF as the HVU at the centre of the group to handle AEW before ASW.

Rocket Banana
July 25, 2013 1:16 pm


Okay, I’ll give you that, although I’m not happy about the idea of a “floater” ;-)

July 25, 2013 1:27 pm

The other thing to consider with he pod is your some what tied in to its radar development for f35 should that have issues or if isn’t progressing as hoped you may be handcuffing both your principle assets for a while.

Putting a dozen grey merlins on cvf seems an a rather large percentage of a total fleet of 30 aircraft. I hate to take over gloomys role but I would have guessed 8 a/c maybe closer to the mark.

Jeremy M H
July 25, 2013 1:57 pm

I would add that the sensor side of the APG-81 is pretty derivative APG-77 which has been up and flying for quite some time. The programs share a lot of information, technology and programing backwards and forwards so I think that this is a pretty low risk solution. TOC makes a good point though, the place where a lot of things could start going wrong is the back end of the system and its ultimate integration to the combat system. That has the potential to be expensive work if not managed right though it really should not be that bad.

About the best thing that can be said about the solution tactically is that it frees up and F-35 or two to do something other than play mini-AWACS. It isn’t a great solution but it is a solution. If you can fuse that sensor picture and target your SAM’s off of it then it should help a lot with ASM defense at least.

July 25, 2013 2:45 pm

@ Simon

At sea surely anything that floats is a good idea?

In Jackspeak the regular verb to float-test has nothing to do with floating but sinking in that it is all to do with ditching gash over the side.

As for helicopter numbers. Well really we are talking about sets of equipment just as much as airframes. We don’t want a situation where we have a few modules and a few airframes. Don’t forget that modules will suffer wear and tear too. We don’t want a useful feature becoming an excuse for cuts (not savings.)

Rocket Banana
July 25, 2013 3:22 pm

Would having Vigilance allow us to plug into the “sensor fusion” net?

Rocket Banana
July 25, 2013 3:23 pm


If we can’t field about 12 Merlin from a fleet of 30 we’re a bit stuffed :-(

July 25, 2013 3:30 pm


By net do you mean the f35 net? If so nope not if the f35 is flying in contested airspace.

Im not talking fielding 12 its deploying 12 to cvf. Take in maintenance, training, trials work, possibly ssbn tasking or another tasking and how many out of 30 are you left with?

Rocket Banana
July 25, 2013 3:38 pm


Perhaps there are some here that can explain what the expected deployment of Merlin would actually be, but I’d suggest…

One on each active T23/T26, so that’s 8.
12 on the active CVF.
10 in maintenance/overhaul.

Of the 8 on the T23 they’re only strictly required on the ships equiped with 2087 so that would be 5 of 8 in service. This yields a further 3 Merlin which would be used for training at Culdrose.

July 25, 2013 3:53 pm


Yep that would be interesting to know if there allowed to tell. But purely as a guess I would be surprised if the operational squadrons had access to more than 14-18 a/c for all there required tasks and Sqn training, line maintenance ect. I would also have thought a pooled arranged for airframes would be used as opposed to assigning aircraft to squadrons hence the drive for aew modularity.


Yep in that context I would think the merlin aew would have all the data links required

Rocket Banana
July 25, 2013 4:08 pm


There seems to be something odd going on with the edit box in Firefox all of a sudden?

I can only enter comments by clicking on the “zoom box” icon.

This is the only site that is affected and it works with IE.

Anything to do with multiple classes defined against a DIV (e.g. <div class="wrap class“>)?

Rocket Banana
July 25, 2013 4:57 pm

Time to put the cat amongst the pigeons…

We had 44 Merlin.
We now have 38 Merlin due to various losses.

30 of these will be upgraded to HM2 standard.

This leaves 8 HM1s.

Culdrose operates a 9-step Merlin Depth Maintenance Facility pipeline so 9 will be in the maintenance pipeline. Most ships have their own hangar for routine maintenance.

814 and 820 squadrons field the copters for the carriers (12 in each makes 24, I’m assuming 6 in MDMF).
824 squadron is for training (probably using the copters from the inactive carrier squadron and simulators).
829 squadron is to field the Merlin for the frigates (8 HM1, 5 deployed, 3 in MDMF?)

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 25, 2013 6:32 pm

AE of 814 & 820 is (I believe) 6 each.

July 25, 2013 8:29 pm

The being it of using the same radar as the F-35 is that the LM STARS maintenance system will be deployed on the CVF allowing a ‘joined up’ support infrastructure should there be any failures. A major benefit for loggie crap ;-)