Picked out of the Public Accounts Committee 18th Report on Carrier Strike are a few clarifications on the CROWSNEST project to replace the ageing Sea King ASaC Mk 7’s

ROYAL NAVY Seaking Surveillance Helicopter over Afghanistan
ROYAL NAVY Seaking Surveillance Helicopter over Afghanistan


AM Hillier “I believe the main gate for Crowsnest is in 2014, but I would have to check…”.

Jon Thompson “It is spring 2014”.


The Assessment Phase 3 is in 2014 with the planned main gate for Crowsnest in 2017.


Bernard Gray “There are two variants of radar under consideration”.


There are two potential Mission System providers (Lockheed Martin and Thales), but within this there are four variants of radar under consideration (Eltra Systems Ltd; Northrop Grumman; Selex; Thales).


Mr Bacon “How much is Crowsnest expected to cost?”.

Henry Parker states “There is a range from about 120 to 400, depending on which solution and how long it takes”.

Correction (Crowsnest Review Note Cat A 15 Mar 13-IAC 3350)

There is a range in demonstration and manufacture costs from c£230 million to c£500 million, depending on a number of factors, including who is chosen to provide the Mission System and which radar units are used.

Add Footnote: Specific figures attributable to each potential supplier remain commercially sensitive due to ongoing negotiations.

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September 3, 2013 7:15 am

Still no mention of how they will pay for it though.

I am starting to think that CROWSNEST should be indefinitely delayed and major effort put into extending Asac7. The radar still seems to be perfectly capable and will be for some time. I am sure with all the spares from the other sea kings we can keep the airframes in the air for quite some time to come.

At least this way we can avoid yet another capability holiday and we can free up to £ 1 billion from the defence budget at the end of this decade when things are going to be even tighter than they are now with JCA purchases and Successor to pay for.

Peter Elliott
September 3, 2013 8:15 am

@TD are those your corrections or theirs?

Are they being deliberately obfuscatory or do they really have no grip on these rather salient details?

Quite alarming either way :(

September 3, 2013 8:45 am

“Are they being deliberately obfuscatory or do they really have no grip on these rather salient details?”

And we wonder why we have problems.

Should note though that they single out the MOD for not having a handle on all costs for SDSR 2010 and say they should be ready for SDSR 2015. However SDSR 2010 did come out of the blue and the government wanted it all done in a few months. It obviously cost’s a lot of time and money to get a handle on costs (point in fact £74 million for carrier conversion alone) and the MOD should not look to spend this money until the government instructs it.

September 3, 2013 8:50 am

Your idea seems so sensible one wonders why it has not been adopted as policy. Perhaps one of the grown ups can explain. If the Sea Kings really cannot be kept flying then what is the reAson for not just banging the Searchwater into Merlin I wonder. Surely that would be the easiest and cheapest workable solution.

Rocket Banana
September 3, 2013 8:54 am

SDSR 2010 was all about immediate savings.

The thing is that many of the cuts have deeper impact further down the line.

I said at the time it was a short term money saving exercise NOT a long term one.

The problem with all this post-analysis is that it fails to appreciate the cost drivers at the time.

Crowsnest was one of those “we’ll worry about it later” type things that it utterly incompatible with the desire to have Carrier Strike.

Heads should roll.

Andrew S
Andrew S
September 3, 2013 11:47 am

Serious caution should be exercised when it comes to any interim or “simplified” solution, such as trying to shoehorn in a new capability into a platform that was never designed to accept it.

Last time we “banged in” a capability into an existing platform, we ended up with the Nimrod AEW3 …

And we all know how that ended up.

September 3, 2013 12:40 pm

Would it not have been cheaper in the long run to convert carrier to catapult? A couple of Hawkeye AWACS and a combined RAF/ Fleet Air Arm F35 Task Force should save money?

September 3, 2013 1:37 pm

@Andrew S

I take your point, Mr. S, but there are very significant differences between the two projects. For a start Searchwater is not a new cabalilty. It is a very mature bit of kit whole needs are fully understood. Secondly the Merlin is not an obsolete piece of 1950s technology that has been modified so many times as to make each airframe a unique coach-built item. Thirdly there is a contractor offering to put Searchwater into Merlin and who could be made to accept any financial risk.

There maybe good reasons for going for something more expensive but I haven’t heard of them.

The Mintcake Maker
The Mintcake Maker
September 3, 2013 2:13 pm

Okay so we all knew about the 2 potential mission systems (LM or Thales) but am I right in saying this is the first time that they have mentioned that there are 4 potential radars too choose from?

“four variants of radar under consideration (Eltra Systems Ltd; Northrop Grumman; Selex; Thales).”

Northrop Grumman is obviously the AN/APG-81 and Thales is probably the updated Searchwater radar but I’ve never heard Eltra or Selex mentioned before.

Does anybody know what the Eltra Systems and Selex offerings might be?


The Other Chris
September 3, 2013 2:54 pm

Selex would likely be offering a Seaspray family option, probably related to the 7000E equipment on the Wildcat [1] though also check out the 7500E [2] as well.

I believe “Eltra” is a typo, it is likely “ELTA Systems Ltd.” who are a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries. They make a variety of Sensor systems [3].

[1] Selex Seaspray 7000E

[2] Selex Seaspray 7500E

[3] Elta Systems by Application

September 3, 2013 3:43 pm

I thought the radar was the one really good thing about the current seakings. Although it’s size is awkward to say the least.

The Other Chris
September 3, 2013 3:55 pm

For me, the biggest disadvantage that Searchwater ASaC has in the Crowsnest bid is that it’s not an AESA.

Thale’s biggest advantage (technically speaking, not necessarily cost) in the Crowsnest bid is Cerberus, though they’d likely remain as a Mission System supplier if another [AESA] Sensor can be integrated with it.

September 3, 2013 5:17 pm

Andrew S said:

“Last time we “banged in” a capability into an existing platform, we ended up with the Nimrod AEW3 …”

Erm, no, not really. The last time we banged the capability into an existing platform was hanging SearchWater under a Seaking to invest Seaking AEW -still giving sterling service as ASaC…… !!

September 3, 2013 5:54 pm

“For me, the biggest disadvantage that Searchwater ASaC has in the Crowsnest bid is that it’s not an AESA.”

Issue is, do you want a gold-plated system in service eventually and in fewer numbers? or want it in service asap and in budget with least risk?

A playoff, but the RN has too often demanded everything top notch (well within its rights!) but does mean the budget suffers and in the end, the numbers and length of time to get IOC.

I think we all agree that crowsnest is a vital part of the carrier system. A smaller investment in the less sophisticated system now could mean better options in the future/less risk.

September 3, 2013 6:28 pm

I have a similar view on Crowsnest as I do on FRES: For feck’s sake just pick one!

Personally I’d go for the quicker and cheaper option of sticking with what we’ve got, or putting Searchwater on Merlin if that’s not possible. Either should do us for the next 10-15 years. QEC will be in service for 40-50 years remember. Looking long term we could see how the USMC get on with their V22s or, even longer term, the next gen tiltrotors currently being designed.

All this is contingent on RT falling on his head and not getting his AEW aerostat into service, obviously.

September 3, 2013 7:08 pm

The Vigilance pod is indeed the APG81. Same radar as the F35B’s we’re buying…sounds like a great fit for our 12 spare Merlins

The Other Chris
September 3, 2013 8:58 pm

Not sure if everyone is aware of how much in another league AESA radars are compared to previous generations. Simply put, they are the most significant development in detection since Radar itself. All this made possible through the Smartphone revolution which is rapidly reducing the cost of Gallium Arsenide chip manufacture.

Summary, as this probably deserves a post all of its own:

– Comprised typically of a flat plane of 1,000+ Transmit/Receive modules packed tightly together
– Drastically reduced sidelobe leaks and thermal noise
– More power effectively transmitted in total than equivalent non-AESA
– Far greater resolution than a planar/concave/Cassegrain dish
– As a result can detect smaller objects, further away, travelling faster amongst more clutter
– Multiple simultaneous pulses in different frequencies at different targets, rotating on every pulse
– Low probability of intercept as a result and resistance to both jamming/burnout
– Safer to operate continuously
– Can supply many more functions passively than non-AESA
– Multiple simultaneously interlace-able detection modes (e.g. SAR, pulse, strip, 3D comparison, etc)
– Jamming, supplying false returns, interference patterns to disguise the source, mimicing the emissions of other sets
– Data transfer
– Mean Time Between Failure of 1,000+ flying hours (equates to upwards of several years in the field)
– Graceful degradation of performance as TR modules fail/damaged
– Simpler/cheaper to maintain
– All this in one unit. Or link several together for more coverage.

Downsides are the initial cost and (significantly) increased cooling requirements necessitating serious thought on how to implement heat dissipation.

Like a Smartphone, just because it’s labeled AESA it does not necessarily mean you will get all of these features in a particular model (Does your Smartphone OS actually use the A2DP function of your bluetooth chip? Does your system-on-a-chip even have Bluetooth on the die?) and it’s important not to get complacent about pre-AESA sets, however an AESA gives an operator a significant set of advantages over a non-AESA operator.

For these reasons I feel that ditching the pulse-doppler Searchwater in favour of an AESA as the sensor component of the Crowsnest system is worth the programme risk despite the long service that Searchwater has given the UK.

The Other Chris
September 3, 2013 9:04 pm

Regarding “banging in” capabilities, does operating Apache from HMS Illustrious count?

Is “banging in” capabilities not standard operating practice for the Brits?

Rocket Banana
September 3, 2013 9:13 pm

Is it definately the APG81? I thought we (everyone) still didn’t know and were working on either APG80 or APG81? In other words 1000 or 1200 elements respectively.

September 3, 2013 9:17 pm

Aesa radars offer great future potential but in the immediate future the superiority is much less discernible.

I will include the following quote from the US f18 operation evaluation last year

• The APG-79 AESA radar provides improved performance relative to the legacy APG-73 radar; however, operational testing did not demonstrate a statistically significant difference in mission accomplishment between F/A-18E/F aircraft equipped with AESA and those equipped with the legacy radar.

While SCSs H6E and 23X demonstrate acceptable suitability, the AESA radar’s reliability continues to suffer from software instability. The radar’s failure to meet reliability requirements and poor built-in test (BIT) performance remain as shortfalls from previous test and evaluation periods.

The Other Chris
September 3, 2013 9:18 pm

Vigilance Pods have only been described as “based on” APG-80/81 to date that I’m aware. Would love to know the TR count too.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 3, 2013 9:38 pm

@ The Other Chris,

nice punchy summary, and I fully agree with you on AESA.

The only thing I might add is the extensible datalink capability that you hint at (”Or link several together for more coverage”). I’ve not been involved much in the last few years with AESA, but state of the possible around 4 years ago was a wideband throughput of about 1 Gbit/s, in comparison to L16 and TTNT of around 1/10th of that. There was talk of a Common Data link standard (Cubic and LM, I think?) But there were also power generation issues for long range, and beam steering challenges to focus enough power down to a pencil beam and still get aimed adequately.

But in theory, add enough power to an AESA in the X Band and solve the aiming reliability and you’ve got near theatre wide 1 Gbit/s with unlimited users (and in fact the self-forming network getting more and more reliable and capable as more users joined the network).

I also like distributed cooperative interrogation and processing, with any T/R array in sight of a target being taskable and resolution hugely increasing, even if the requester was non-LOS. Bitch of a CONOPS to design and probably impossible for a coalition to implement, but the science was cool. Funnily enough, we designed and implemented a real-time LOS calculator for thousands of entities which could have been part of that system (we did it for a completely unrelated EW programme). Massive use of GPGPU and Cuda (needs a widebody or secure ground station), but the LOS reports are tiny – small packets married to time velocity and vector codes.

The Mintcake Maker
The Mintcake Maker
September 3, 2013 11:31 pm

Well after a bit of thinking I’ve come up with an idea. First off have to agree with Wiseape and Mike, let’s go cheap and cheerful now when there’s not much cash around and then slowly upgrade, rather than jumping straight in at the Gold-plated end of the pool. Although I do see the benefits of going AESA, I don’t think it’s a priority just yet (let’s wait a little bit longer and watch the price drop more). Also the government has stated that there will be a competition between mission systems i.e. the new HM2 ASW mission system that can also be used for AEW operations according to LM or we use the Cerberus system offered by Thales which is specifically designed for the job of AEW&C. However this seems daft to me because unless we want to be lugging consoles in and out of helicopters the only way to make this a roll-on/roll-off capability would be to use the LM mission consoles. Unless the MoD have had a better idea (Don’t laugh! It could happen).

So from our imaginary total budget of <£1bn (around the £1bn for the total project seems to have been mentioned in the past), I would do the following:

+ Pay AW £200m to upgrade the 8 remaining HM1 Merlins to HM2 standard + up to £40m to cut a section out of the back where the rear ramp would go BUT do not fit a ramp.

+ Pay AW£80m to manufacture new folding rotor-hubs and other bits needed, to temporarily convert some of the HC3’s for shipboard operation rather than cannibalise the parts from the 8 HM1s in storage.

+ Offer Thales a £360m contract to remove 10 of the Searchwater radars from the Seakings (done on a rolling basis so not to lose capability), refurbish them, and mount them on a pallet that can fit inside a Merlin (through the gap in the back of the 8 HM1s that are upgraded) along with at 2 Cerberus consoles, maybe 3 consoles. So that would be 8 systems fully embarked and 2 that can be undergoing maintenance.
As pointed out in the article above, we already own the kit, why waste the money if it’s sufficient for now with just an upgrade.

+ £20m for a full study into a long-term AEW solution, maybe rent/ask to borrow a V-22 to see how well the pallet system works with that, as that could be an ideal long-term solution especially if we can share maintenance with the Americans since the USAF are basing some of their CV-22’s here. (By the way there are some nice pics of the V-22 tanker trials here )

Total budget cost: £700m

This entire program listed above could be done on a multi-year contract so the overall effect to the defence budget would be minimal. If the contracts are spread-out over 5 years then this equates £140m or less than 0.5% of the 2015 defence budget. Based on that timetable a Merlin would be converted every 7.5 months and Thales would produce a palletised AEW set every 6 months, meaning that if the project started in 2015 by the time the SeaKing ASaC is withdraw by the end of 2016 there would be 1 complete and one almost complete Merlin AEW system and by 2018 when HMS QE is declared operational there would be a force of 4x Merlin (nearly 5) and 6 AEW mission systems.

Anyway that’s what I would do. I suppose it’s time for me to go find cover as somebody will no doubt manage to pull this apart very easily. :-P


September 4, 2013 1:32 am

@ The Other Chris
“Not sure if everyone is aware of how much in another league AESA radars are compared to previous generations.”
Agreed but the simple fact is we don’t have the money. Surely its better to wait a few more years until the AESA solution is perfected and then move forward with the better system when we have better resources and can look at a longer term solution.

Rocket Banana
September 4, 2013 7:59 am

This AESA/non-AESA is one of those complex decisions.

What exactly are we after from the next gen AEW? Detection? Target designation?

If we want the latter then it really should be AESA. If we feel comfortable that we’ll definately have F35B flying off the carriers then we can probably simply have a simple AEW asset rather than a full ISTAR asset that merely allows scramble of F35B at the limit of it’s detection range.

Merlin has a horizon of 240km and SearchWater can detect an aircraft at about 185km. Basically it wastes the added altitude Merlin gives us over Sea King. We really need an uprated radar system to make use of this. So that would be approximately a 100kW radar (1.5 times SearchWater). Something like the APG-77 (F-22, 1500 elements) isn’t even enough in my mind and the more T/R elements the more expensive it will be.

September 4, 2013 8:03 am

@RT – “Massive use of GPGPU and Cuda (needs a widebody or secure ground station), but the LOS reports are tiny – small packets married to time velocity and vector codes.”

How long ago was this, and was it a single-precision or double precision fp number crunching problem?

Just curious because:
1. Nowadays I imagine the preference would be for opencl, or even heard if it was a future product
2. With the rate at which gpgpu processing throughput has advanced on the hardware side I imagine the space would be modest if more than a few years had passed.

Interesting stuff.

September 4, 2013 10:01 am

Picking up from Mike:
“I think we all agree that crowsnest is a vital part of the carrier system. A smaller investment in the less sophisticated system now could mean better options in the future/less risk.”
– Crowsnest of course has been running for yonks, they just changed the project name a couple of years ago
– the previous project produced a good conceptual study of “how to”
1. get more out of a fewer number of airframes
2. counter the inherent disadvantages vs. the higher-flying fixed wing/ tilt rotor options

That was by using the helo as a central node and control point for UAV, which then could be quickly vectored to take the likely/ changing threat axis into account (and increase detection range).
– Crowsnest is of course not ONLY for carriers
– but even with the much lighter radars, it is hard to imagine a sufficient number of UAVs being launched from anything else, in order to get the real benefits of this type of “mixed fleet” solution (… and you do want to recover those AESAs, too?)

The Other Chris
September 4, 2013 10:59 am

@RT and

F-35 is using a Real-Time Operating System and Field Programmable Gate Arrays for the bulk of its number crunching when “Fusion” processing.


As power transmission is moved from a central transmitter to be spread over the Transmit/Receive modules in the array itself, the output energy of an AESA is 2x-4x that of a legacy set. There’s also far greater control over constructive/destructive interference patterns, reducing sidelobe energy leak and beam drop-off. AESA does not have the performance drop of a Phased Array Antenna in order to achieve direct-able beam forming for example. The transmission band also has an impact (e.g. L vs X Band).

September 4, 2013 11:24 am

Just solved it!

F35 with its AESA at the front and a Vigilant pod under each wing… two operators with consoles, one in each bomb bay!


September 4, 2013 6:36 pm

Not completely off topic and it saves me the faff of attempting another post:

Of course though, there is no money. Unless you own trains, in which case the sun shines out of….

Rocket Banana
September 4, 2013 6:44 pm


You’ve got to question the mentality…

A 1.8 tonne copter chassis? Have they not seen one of these before?

September 5, 2013 3:26 am

@ Simon and Wise Ape

I think they originally intended to use the Gazel in the unmanned role.

One has to question the wisdom of a full sized helicopter in the UAV role. It’s going to act in direct competition to the vessel’s own helicopter and it won’t provide any additional capability the Frigate does not already have. Its also going to be incredibly expensive and not the kind of thing you will leave hanging over enemy territory for gun spotting etc. I think something along the lines of Scan eagle is far better for the RN.

Pt. James Frazer
Pt. James Frazer
September 5, 2013 4:16 pm


Agreed that a light ‘full size’ copter would clash with existing helo capabilities plus (i) have a deck/hangar footprint and (ii) maintenance burden that could rule out it being carried alongside Wildcat / Merlin. However, Scan Eagle doesn’t have the range of sensor options or equipment fit that a Camcopter S-100 can bring to the party:

1) Wescam MX-10 turret (MX-15 on Wildcat)
2) Either I-Master (on Watchkeeper) or PicoSAR (same family as Seaspray 7000 on Wildcat) radar
3) Riegl Hydrographic Airborne Sensor for littoral survey
4) 2 x Thales LMM (same as Wildcat) can be carried on side hard points to anti-FIAC

To me, that’s truly multi-role incremental capability that can be carried alongside the Wildcat / Merlin or standalone on a future MHPC vessel.

September 5, 2013 5:24 pm

Hopefully, the RN have a clear idea of exactly what they want long term.

There is no such thing as a jack of all trades. Also, we should avoid gold-plating. Accepting that the onboard helo (be it Merlin or Wildcat) will handle the “heavier” tasks would be a good start. My vision of a frigate borne UAV has always been something small (certainly no larger than FireScout) and hopefully numerous. Three or four at least.

When it comes to the larger ships perhaps there is scope for a larger UAV, but again, I see these as a supplement rather than a replacement for helos. The trick may be to convince Treasury bods of the distinctiveness of their roles.

Rocket Banana
September 5, 2013 5:30 pm

What I like about Scan Eagle is that it is essentially CATOBAR.

Sort of proves the point really doesn’t it ;-)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 5, 2013 6:04 pm

What i like about Scan eagle is the endurance and the ease of operation. having worked with them in the Northern Arabian Gulf they are an incredibly useful asset for building the recognised maritime picture.
For a singleton properly equipped FF/DD 2 or 3 can almost guarantee 24/7 coverage allowing far more targeted use of organic rotary wing assets than a general dawn and dusk surface search.

September 5, 2013 6:37 pm

CROWSNEST is on the back burner simply because we do not have the funding for it.

We are at present trying to keep a significantly reduced fleet committed to an unchanged task set. The ships are breaking and it costs a lot to keep them going. We are also breaking people. Merlin is expensive anyway, and after the HM2 upgrade the numbers are severely depleted. SDSR has left us underfunded across the board – and I know why, because it is all going into the Afghan farce. CROWSNEST simply doesn’t figure at the moment because there is no immediate need for it. Re-engining the MCMs, the T23 Capability Sustainment Programme, equipment maturation and development for T26, all of this is far more critical because it maintains the core FF/DD capability, without which carrier strike is pointless. That and the ever skyrocketing price of spare parts.

Any talk of radar horizons is limited by an aircraft’s ability to operate at altitude. Neither Merlin nor Sea King are pressurised so they will never get much above 10,000ft.

However, the mission system in the Merlin HM2 is already capble of the AEWC role, so talk of ‘mission systems’ now seems a bit pointless. We are just after the radar to plug into the end of it.

September 6, 2013 8:51 am

@ James Frazer

No doubt Camm copter is impressive, are you sure it has longer endurance the Scan Eagle. If so that’s impressive for a helo.

September 6, 2013 12:24 pm

Whilst at face value fitting Searchwater2000 and Cerberus might appear to be the cheapest quickest solution it might not actually be the case. At first they offered a palletised solution running off the back of a Merlin converted with a ramp, they are now offering a side mounted trapeze solution. Now when it was the idea that the spare HM1 not being converted to HM2 would be used it was not a bad solution but it appears the RN wants to use the HM2 with any airframe being used. Mounting the trapeze, pulling out the consoles to push in the Cerberus fit is a pain. On the other hand Vigilance hangs the radar pods off the HM2 torpedo rails and uses the already installed consoles with updated mission software. That offers significant cost savings and training advantages, it allows any airframe to be adapted to role quickly and a few extra training modules for those personnel who will man them rather then an entirely separate training stream for a unique AEW solution. It is also significantly more exportable albeit the Americans will mainly benefit from that.

Pt. James Frazer
Pt. James Frazer
September 6, 2013 2:12 pm


On endurance the Scan Eagle has it…Wiki quotes 20+ hours whereas Schiebel quote 6+ for Camcopter vs 8+ for Firescout B as a reference.

To my mind it’s a trade between multi-role, potentially lightly armed, utility i.e. interchangeable (already integrated) payloads vs persistence with less sophisticated & range limited sensors. There’s clearly a difference in capability and cost but Camcopter can’t be in the Firescout league.

I’d guess that the Scan Eagle launcher would prevent deck operations for the helo until dismantled – maybe they could use the T23 hangar roof once the Type 911 Seawolf trackers are removed post Sea Ceptor unless they want to put a Phalanx unit there that is….wishful thinking.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 6, 2013 2:31 pm

@Pt Frazer

Yes you could not do simultaneous deck ops with Scan Eagle but when you are launching something you can recover 19 hours later it is less of an issue.
I see scan eagle as enabling the PWO to look well over the horizon and transform the situational awareness and RMP in the ops room whilst enabling the organic helo to be tasked in a far more efficient manner.

The Other Chris
September 6, 2013 4:04 pm


Any experience with Integrator?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 6, 2013 4:17 pm


None but looks like a natural evolution.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 6, 2013 5:24 pm

re Scan Eagle, a decent bit of kit.

As for L&R operations, would it be possible to erect the rail right up front of the boat on the bow? (Shades of the figurehead forward pointy mast of proper old sailing ships). Saves the flight deck for helicopter operations.

Launch while sailing directly into wind. Recover at the same point (ie bow) by sailing with the wind 3/4 left or right and behind, so the Scan Eagle can come and land at a 45 degree angle relative to the boat, but directly into wind, and if it misses, is not immediately on a crash course for the bridge.

(What else happens right forward at the bow, at / slightly above deck level?)

Also, a point of my ignorance. How come Searchwater is in the mix for Crowsnest? Does it have an air surveillance mode, and if it does, surely it should be looking at the sky for air surveillance, not positioned on the side of the helicopter looking down at the sea (and presumably the fuselage effectively masks quite a lot of sky)? I do realise that might be an incredibly stupid question, but it is Friday at the end of a long week….

September 6, 2013 5:56 pm

@RT: ASaC7 is Searchwater. The radar was adapted quick time in 1982 :-)

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 6, 2013 6:01 pm


you’ll have to forgive me, I don’t know Andrew-speak. ASaC7? Also ASW vs ASuW. Does “Su” stand for “surface” or “submarine”? All Greek to me. It’s all I can do to remember that boats float, and ships go under the water, and that it’s proper to be on a boat, not in a ship. Fair made the XO and Captain of Bristol cringe when they had the good fortune of my presence onboard for 3 months. ;)

“Searchwater” to me sounds like it searches the water, not something flying 30,000 feet above the water.

(They started it, referring to my troop of CVR(T) as “tanks”. The very…..)

September 6, 2013 6:44 pm

ASaC7 = Airbourne Surveillance and Control, the 7 refers to the aircraft; Sea King Mk7
ASW = Anti Submarine Warfare
ASuW = Anti Surface Warfare

That’s what my understanding of it is anyway

Rocket Banana
September 6, 2013 6:46 pm

Think of SearchWater as “search over water” – a naval search radar.

ASW – Anti Sub Warfare
ASuW – Anti SUrface Warfare

Rubbish acronyms really especially when you consider that we tend to use AShM for Anti SHip Missile rather than ASuM for Anti SUrface Missile. No consistency ;-)

Love your question about using the bow of a ship for Scan Eagle… looking forward to a reason why this is not the case :-)

The Other Chris
September 6, 2013 6:53 pm

Crowsnest up to $500m and down to 8 Roll-On, Roll-Off systems for a fleet of 30 aircraft?

Ace Rimmer
September 6, 2013 6:53 pm

The Mintcake Maker: “Pay AW £200m to upgrade the 8 remaining HM1 Merlins to HM2 standard + up to £40m to cut a section out of the back where the rear ramp would go BUT do not fit a ramp.”

I’d be surprised if it cost that much, looking at the photo the airframe seems to be quite modular in construction, building brand new rear fuselage sections and replacing the HM.1 section shouldn’t be too difficult for AW.

September 6, 2013 7:20 pm

@RT: my naval experience has been largely restricted to rescuing French teenagers (female, pretty, grateful) while sailing a Mirror dinghy, and damn good fun it was too :-)

The AEW7 variant of the Sea King uses a modified Searchwater radar from the Nimrod…still!

September 6, 2013 8:07 pm

Just a thought, do we still have the Searchwater kit that was destined for MRA4? If so the modular kitting could be started in advance instead of having to swap out existing ASaC7 airframes?

September 7, 2013 10:25 am

Spanish UAV news:

BTW, I trust we are not supporting Madrid’s bid for the 2020 Olympics.

September 7, 2013 11:55 am

I expect I’m hoping too much that someone in MOD will see sense and see if they can manage some sort of deal to take advantage of the HM2 upgrade and find funding to upgrade the stored HM1s as first steps to earmarking them as dedicated Crowsnest machines. ? Would make sense to do this whilst upgrade underway to ensure commonality across the fleet ?

September 7, 2013 12:07 pm

I read somewhere in the last couple of days that the Canadians apparently have sent some folks to have a look at merlin mk1 as there cyclone is even worse than our procurement projects so you could add 2+2 and suggest a possible sale of spare a/c maybe in the offing

September 7, 2013 1:03 pm
September 7, 2013 5:00 pm

@ Mark

Spare aircraft? SPARE AIRCRAFT? >coughsplutter< :)

Rocket Banana
September 9, 2013 10:40 am

Just a bit of a mad question…

Can we not fit a better radar into the blob on the top of this…

Apache Longbow

…it would make a great ASaC platform for both overland and naval AEW.

September 9, 2013 2:42 pm

@Ace Rimmer

The problem with adapting the spare eight HM1 into a hybrid HM2 variant with a rear ramp is you end up with a fleet within a fleet. Inevitably they will require slightly different maintenance and training measures adding cost to operation of the Merlin fleet as a whole. The MOD is clearly pushing for a mission system and radar that can be bolted to any of the standard HM2. Thales amended their offering in 2011 switching to a minimum change bolt on solution for the standard HM2 using a lowerable side rail system for the Searchwater radar and the standard HM2 consoles with suitable software ammendments. This makes their offering very similar to that of Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin who propose hanging the AN/APG81 Vigilance radar pods from the torpedo rails and again making use of the standard HM2 consoles. Curiously this means the Thales offering will probably be cheaper as it makes use of the already in service radar but has the higher risk of clearing the large side mount rails for flight operations and getting the radar to work with the HM2 mission systems and consoles. The Lock Mart/Northrop Grumman solution is probably more expensive but is lower risk in the sense that the smaller AESA pods should be easier to clear on the torpedo stations and the prime contractor for the HM2 upgrade is working on the integration work with the consoles and mission systems. The Vigilance solution also has the advantage that it is basically the same radar as fitted to the F-35 offering maintenance synergies which should lead to cost savings. There is of course the risk that it is an unproven solution in comparison to Searchwater 2000. Nevertheless it is not just a simple question of why not bung Searchwater on Merlin, it might not be the best or most cost effective solution in the long run.

Most recent Thales solution:

Most recent Lock Mart/Northrop Grumman solution: