CROWSNEST Contract

The Demonstration and Manufacture contract for CROWSNEST has been confirmed.

Lockheed Martin UK Ltd

Merlin MK 2 Helicopter — Crowsnest Demonstration and Manufacture.

Anti submarine warfare helicopters. Merlin Crowsnest — Modification and provision of Airborne Surveillance and Control role fit equipment and modification of the Merlin MK 2 Helicopter Fleet.

Value: 275 000 000 GBP

As we know, the Thales system was selected, with Lockheed Martin acting as the prime.

Thales CROWSNEST

The Assessment Phase cost £27m plus the cost of the FOAEW and MASC programmes that went before it, estimated total assessment phase costs are around £40m

So for a little over £300m the Royal Navy quickly get an upgraded ASaC system into service as the Sea Kings are withdrawn.

The programme will include 10 role fit kits.

It will be interesting to see how it integrates with the sensor and communications systems onboard the F-35B, plenty of interesting potential there.

For such a highly regarded system, seems a low risk and sensible decision that should provide good value for money.

 

 

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HMArmedForcesReview
HMArmedForcesReview
October 17, 2015 1:16 am
HMArmedForcesReview
HMArmedForcesReview
October 17, 2015 1:59 am

Will also have to integrate with the Type 45/QEC S1850M radars…

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
October 17, 2015 6:48 am

I agree with the Value for Money POV, as without the roll on/off kits the airframe cost would have added at least £20m to what now appears to be £30m each. Worthwhile to compare to the “guts” of a E-2D which (as part of the fly away cost, so may not include all R&D and integration costs) come at £40m.

Ref”Price/Unit Cost: The unit cost of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is $173.60 million (flyaway cost in FY 2015) of which the airframe and two Rolls-Royce T56 engines make up a total of $89.47 million. The cost of the avionics package amounts to $63.92 million with other costs making up the remaining $20.21 million.”

TAS
TAS
October 17, 2015 7:42 am

On integration. We will not be ‘integrating’ any radar systems as the UK is not pursuing a CEC capability. Data exchange with T45 and F35 will be through Link 16 only, which is only a data link. Remember also that this comes at a cost to the number of Merlin available for ASW tasking.

McZ
McZ
October 17, 2015 8:09 am

“as The Sea Kings are withdrawn”

How many replacements are to be obtained for those Sea Kings?

And as TAS states, Crowsnest

McZ
McZ
October 17, 2015 8:14 am

Aw, crap…

… Crowsnest integration into the battle network will not be the F-35 or Typhoon-like seamless thing including using one bird as a sensor node for a flight.

Mark
Mark
October 17, 2015 8:17 am

Tas

If were going to maximise the potiential of f35 as a assets that probes ahead in high threat environments we’ll need something more than link 16 on the ships and ground stations it will report to. It will only use the MADL data link to send and receive data in contested areas unless we plan to use a gateway platform.

Chris
Editor
Chris
October 17, 2015 8:27 am

TAS – I may be in a minority here. I have never been a fan of CEC – the radio traffic involved does create a bit of a ‘shoot me’ flag. Providing all the radar platforms have accurate timestamping capability then linked contact data ought to be readily absorbed into half-decent trackers without significant loss of quality. Although its probable that CEC would have improved matters with tracking high speed extreme agility contacts.

Barborossa
Barborossa
October 17, 2015 8:35 am

What I find a little confusing is that its a Westland airframe, Thales equipment and Lockheed-Martin the integrator…

Excuse the Bizz-babble but that’s three ‘interfaces’- with all the required negotiation, exchange of information, discussion and attendant costs.

Why does there have to be a third organisation, making a profit from this?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
October 17, 2015 8:39 am

,

On another thread it has just been noted that we have only two “shooter” platforms available when talking in an Area AD sense.

The reach of their own radars has been done to death and with Crowsnest things will improve. I would still prefer to have CEC so that the much more numerous escorts to any task force could act as spotter platforms; think of e.g. a diamond shape (get an ASW screen on the deal) at distance around the core of the task force (say CVF, T45 and an LPD plus a Bay).
– don’t know about Artisan’s reach, but should improve things (giving much more reaction time and better prioritisation of threats; e.g. when should the local area AD with Seaceptor deal with it, saving the missile load with alonger reach for dealing with more critical threats).

Donald_of_Tokyo
Donald_of_Tokyo
October 17, 2015 9:29 am

CEC will be good, such as NIFC-CA of USN. In this case, top priority will be a link between CROWSNEST and T45. F-35 has its own nice AESA, maybe better than the CROWSNEST itself. So they need to have an alert from AEW (CROWSNEST), but may not need its targeting information itself.

However, I agree you do not need to hurry. Maybe there will be a chance in future to use Link-16 (or like) simple network to shoot, say, ASTAR30s. Sending 3D location with velocity vector (only 6 dimension vector in, say, 1 second update) is not a hard job.

One question. We know that Helicopter can fly only, say, 4-5 hours a day at most. After some flight hours, it may also go into deep maintenance. In the latter case, I think CROWSNEST can be sent to other airframes, since it is only an attachment to Merlin HM.2. So there will be no “AEW helicopter” in deep maintenance. This IS a merit.

My question is, is it possible to, say, share 2 (or maybe 3) CROWSNEST within 4 (+1 in deep maintenance) airframes in rotation to cover 24/7 AEW task? (Surely it cannot be sustained for a month, but maybe OK for 1-2 weeks?). In this case, you have only 4-5 hours (in case of 2) or 8-10 hours (3) to transfer CROWSNEST to the next airframe. Is this to optimistic?

stephen duckworth
October 17, 2015 10:49 am

With ten sets of the AEW kit I am guessing a couple will be for training, a couple will be in maintainance , leaving six for deployment . With two possible CVF task forces sent on separate missions that would put it at three apiece , perhaps four if a training or maintainance set becoming available. Is ten enough and what’s happening to the prototype sets , are they part of the ten or can they be brought up to production standard for some extra dosh.

Tinman
Tinman
October 17, 2015 7:29 pm

Those that know the capabilities know, won’t share, won’t even spill the true capabilities.

However the bleating and hand wringing forget that the Asac7 is something the USN are a tad green about, also remember that AWACS will be in the TAO.

So the RN has retained a capability that can be switched, V22? Everyone knows the QE2 can take one on its lift.

Peter Elliott
October 17, 2015 7:50 pm

Ideally the tilt rotor we migrate Crowsnest onto should have a pressurised cabin so it can go up to 7,500m altitude. No idea if such a bird will be available in 2030 but worth wishing for…

HMArmedForcesReview
HMArmedForcesReview
October 18, 2015 4:39 am
Reply to  McZ

Facts: In the future, only 1/one ASAC Squadron, 859 NAS

Facts: 10 Crowsnest radar kits. Definitely at least 2 for training in 824 NAS.

Unknowns: How many onboard 1x QEC

HMArmedForcesReview
HMArmedForcesReview
October 18, 2015 7:26 am
Reply to  Tinman

The USMC may enjoy ASAC when they fly off the QECs because they don’t have that luxury of a ASAC helicopter–they have to rely on the E-2Ds which as many pointed, can’t easily switch from a sea-base to a land-base. In fact, IIRC, the USMC commander in Afghanistan praised the RN’s ASAC Sea Kings for the work in-country.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
October 18, 2015 8:28 am

RE “Unknowns: How many onboard 1x QEC”

Looking at it the other way round: How many would be needed to maintain continuous top cover (radar warning -wise, not with continuous CAPs)? Just guessing: 4
– multiply 4 x 2 (QEs)
– the other two as spares/ training

Was the ordered quantity taken out of a hat, or based on something like the above calculation?

Topman
Topman
October 18, 2015 8:45 am

‘How many would be needed to maintain continuous top cover (radar warning -wise, not with continuous CAPs)’

It depends on how long you want them in the air, 12 hours, 24 hours, 10 hours a day for a week etc.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
October 18, 2015 9:04 am

A good point; continuous being the key word (24h/d), obviously only when the threat assessment warrants that
– so to round the question off: for how long could this be maintained with 4 cabs? Not knowing the details, I would still hazard a guess “not too long”

I think my comment on the value of CEC as a complementary solution (which inspired the question) was actually posted onto the Open Thread. RN may have thought the same (5% of one batch order for the components of CEC was bound for the UK) before the procurement was cancelled.

Steve
Steve
October 18, 2015 9:09 am

I assume it depends how long it takes to ‘roll on roll off’. If it can be done fairly quickly, all you need is 3 on the carriers. 1 in the air, 1 on the heli about to take off and a 3rd in spare. As the heli land, you take it off them and put on the next one to take off.

As such, an additional question is do we have enough heli to keep a 24/7 air cover for weeks on end, without losing ASW cover also, assuming we can switch the crowsnet pods fast enough.

Topman
Topman
October 18, 2015 9:22 am

Then you have to look at how often, a 24 hr period how often, every other day, every tenth day? and at what distance? How reliable is the system likely to be, is it spot on or a bag of nails? Since it doesn’t even exist that’s impossible to say. Who are you likely to be working with? What other assests have you got that can do the job? What numbers of aircrew have you got onboard? Lots of variables, continous anything in the air is a rare thing.

Steve
Steve
October 18, 2015 9:35 am

I would think if crowsnest is needed, then we would be up against an attacker that is capable of launching an assault on our task force at any moment and so in a 24 hour period, we need it up 24 hours of it.

I am not sure if we have come across a situation where crowsnest style radar was needed, post Falklands. Gulf war 1 it was useful, but not sure if it was needed.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
October 18, 2015 10:36 am

My reading of the roll on/off capability is that it would be loaded onto x number of Merlins (with crews , probs more than the number of cabs, drawn from the specialist NAS xyz) before sailing and only swapped at sea if there is a need relating a particular airframe (damage, need for more than routine maintenance…).

This has not been said anywhere (and the flavours of the air packages envisaged are more than in the below quote), but as said, just “my reading”:
“A surge force of up to 24 JSFs could deploy on the ship along with what he described as a Maritime Force Protection package of nine Merlin Mk. 2 helicopters equipped for the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission, while a further four or five would be available to provide an airborne early warning capability. A littoral maneuver package also is envisaged, potentially using the Royal Air Force’s Chinooks, the upgraded Merlin Mk. 4, Army Apache attack helicopters and the Wildcat helicopter.”

Please note 4 OR 5; the 5 would max out the force with two carriers at sea at the same time. Just theoretically, there is no reason why a Crowsnest Merlins could not be onboarded on some other vessel, assuming there are enough ASW assets relative to the assessed threat.

Steve
Steve
October 18, 2015 11:47 am

If its the case that they need to be fit in port or at least difficult to change, then 4 or 5 seems low to be able to provide constant coverage and allowing for repairs etc on the heli as they rotate position. I don’t know how long the US carrier based version can stay in the air, but guessing a lot longer than 4 hours.

Bentham
Bentham
October 18, 2015 3:24 pm
Reply to  Barborossa

Because corruption.
Because Lockmart inserted its hooks into Westminster and the MoD.
Because Lockmart is the apogee of the US Military Industrial Complex, and the UK is a servant of the USA. [1]
Because the UK government has funnelled as much money, and as many contracts as possible, to Lockmart – as a way of tying our government into the US Military Industrial Complex. [2]
Because our ‘leaders’ have been told to integrate with the USA, and they will. [3]
Because our elites have been integrating defence and securty companies into government contracts for years, to help build the police state. [4]

[1] Don’t believe me? Snowden’s leaks showed that GCHQ works for the NSA – which is why Parliament and MPs are spied upon, as we recently learned. GCHQ had ignored the Wilson Doctrine for decades. Why do you think Blair lied and took us to war in Iraq on falsified WMD claims?

[2] Why did Lockmart get the contract to run the UK’s census in 2011? Dozens of large UK companies were better placed to handle such work. Lockmart’s specialities are biometrics, cyberwarfare and surveillance, not civilian surveys. (http://www.lockheedmartin.com/uk/news/press-releases/2008-press-releases/census2011.html)

Why is Lockmart leading the hugely expensive Scout SV ‘integration’ work, on a proven General Dynamics product (Scout being based on its pretty decent ASCOD vehicle)?

Why does the RAF still want the F-35, a Lockmart product, when it is beyond doubt that the F-35 is a lemon that will require to the early retirement of existing airframes to pay for it?

Why does Lockmart run the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment, the site that once gave the UK a sovereign nuclear warhead capability? (http://www.cnduk.org/campaigns/no-to-trident/aldermaston)

[3] As one example: The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will subject UK companies to the rule of US commercial law, with arbitrarion decisions decided in the USA, behind closed doors. TTIP is a ‘bigger deal’ than the entire European Union project, and yet almost no-one has heard about it.

[4] My electricity meter is read by a man from Group4 Security, a company better known for runnng prisons and electronically tagging offenders. In a few years, the meter will be a ‘smart meter’, and BAE Systems is the UK’s lead ‘smart meter’ contractor. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-04-18/bt-bae-poised-for-u-k-12-1-billion-pound-smart-meter-program). An unemployed friend of mine told me that the company to whom his ‘back to work’ jobcentre training was outsourced is Serco, better known for operating “military weapons, detention centres, prisons” (quote taken directly from Wikipedia). Unsurprisingly, Serco treats him like a prisoner, and expects him to work 40 hours a week for his job centre benefits of about £60 a week. That’s about £1.50 an hour for working at a logistics hub, sorting packages.

Bentham
Bentham
October 18, 2015 3:26 pm
Reply to  Barborossa

You won’t publish it, will you?

“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” and all that. “Not enough Mexifloats”, maybe. Or, “Can you work in some ISO containers and cut out Lockmart?”

40 deg south
40 deg south
October 18, 2015 8:10 pm
Reply to  Bentham

Assuming ‘it’ was the paranid rant above, he did.

40 deg south
40 deg south
October 18, 2015 8:12 pm

‘paranoid’

Curse this keyboard. I bet Lockheed Martin deliberately designed it to be unworkable.

mike
mike
October 18, 2015 10:51 pm
Reply to  Steve

Thing is, its birth was from ’82… back then the attackers could only run in during daylight hours… giving crews and airframes recovery time… whether or not in a rolling 24/7 scenario it would hold up, is another matter.

Steve
Steve
October 19, 2015 7:26 am

I guess in the unlikely situation that we need it again and it can’t be provided by a ally carrier, then we can send more than the 5 and base them off anything that can accept the helicopter, including support ships.

Brian Black
Brian Black
October 19, 2015 8:20 am

Roll on/off doesn’t mean that the system will routinely be whipped out at the end of every flight.

Every time the system is disconnected and then reconnected there will be the possibility of faults being introduced. There will be a test routine in the maintenance schedule to go through after fitting. The whole affair will cost manhours from technicians that will have plenty of other stuff to do.

For daily or after-flight maintenance, I doubt that the Crowsnest system will be pulled out; if a connected system of multiple black boxes is working, it’s best to leave it alone.

At some point it will be removed, for 25, 50, 100 flying hour maintenance, or whatever. Or when certain aircraft component changes are due, or after aircraft damage. But there will be a threshold in the downtime of the aircraft, before which it’s not worthwhile to go messing about with the Crowsnest gubbins (a flexible threshold according to operational needs and aircraft availability).

Challenger
Challenger
October 19, 2015 9:23 am

With 849 NAS now staying put as a dedicated AEW unit i think it’s pretty likely that Merlin’s will be drawn from the wider pool of aircraft and fitted with Crowsnest for the duration of a given deployment, then potentially stripped when they return home to put the kit on other air-frames coming out of maintenance or from other duties.

I think the rough allocation of Merlin’s will be 14 available for CVF (with something like 9 as ASW platforms and 5 as AEW) 5 in deep maintenance, with the other 11 spread between single ships flights, deterrent support around Faslane, operating from shore or RFA’s as part of Kipion in the Gulf and training etc.

Probably just about doable, but at the expense of both running the fleet extremely hard and having nothing kept back for a rainy day.

Peter Elliott
October 19, 2015 10:17 am

Don’t rule out that if we suddenly have to sail the second carrier we could take on board an Italian AEW flight just like we could take a squadron or two of USMC F35B.

But I agree 30*HM2 looks tight to provide everything we might need it to do: especially as the cabs age.

Various possible answers: drag out and rebuild the remaining HM1, pinch some Army wildcats to support the ASW mission, snap up a few Italian Merlins and convert them, or a boutique buy of a dozen “something else” for the Crowsnest mission.

Best value plan is probably to muddle through at least the next 10 years as we are until both of the carriers and F35B reach FOC. Then maybe look at the issue again in the context of Merlin replacement.

TAS
TAS
October 19, 2015 3:13 pm

Now there’s a question. Why didn’t we just go for the Italian AEW airframe? With all the faffing about and delays coming up with ways to retrofit the radars onto existing airframes, SURELY somebody spotted that Searchwater would fit in that underbelly AEW dome? I know, I know, cost of new aircraft, etc but SURELY that’s not the only reason? Anyone? Was the Italian version crap and does it fall apart mid-flight?