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Old 4th Mar 2013, 19:38
  #76 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Not quite where I'd like to be
Age: 61
Posts: 101
Tucumseh, your post on 2nd March is, unusually for you, only half the story – it’s also written from the engineer’s perspective and not the operators.

When the Sea King replaced the Whirlwind in RAF service it was recognized that trained radar operators would be required, and these were recruited from AEOps from the Nimrod fleet, experienced in operating ASV 21D. However, you’re right to say that by the mid-90s the standard of radar operating was not good. The main reasons for this were quite complex, but boiled down to the fact that many RAF Sea King radar operators (or radar instructors, for that matter) did not come from radar operating backgrounds – they were a mix of Navigators, Nimrod acoustic operators and SH-trained Loadmasters. Those few Nimrod radar operators that were selected for SAR (on a course designed solely to assess winchop and winchman skills) were, as you say, trained on and experienced in processed radar. However, your assertion that the radops were staring at the screen wondering what all the noise was is plain wrong, almost to the point of insult. I remember the period you allude to as I was a radop at Lossiemouth at the time and although I didn’t have the overall perspective you had, I remember that the radars as fitted were weak and seemed underpowered. None of the radops at Lossie at that time would have rejected radars because they “expected clean digital displays” as at least two of the five of us were ASV 21D trained. The Swept Gain story is also a typical engineer’s tale – whilst I’ve no doubt it happened as you say, the fact was that radar instructors at that time advocated leaving swept gain alone, as it had a very powerful effect on the display and without understanding exactly how it worked you could get yourself in trouble with it. It’s also quite likely that the operator you dealt with at Finningley was not an experienced radar operator, or even a radop at all. Still, your tale paints (geddit?) a MoD-satisfying picture of untrained operators so incompetent they couldn’t understand either the display or the controls, rejecting serviceable radar after serviceable radar through sheer ignorance.

The real problem was that instructors could not see the operator’s display because of the Fresnel lens over the CRT. Without this supervision, it was difficult to convey to a tyro radar operator exactly what he was expected to see in front of him. The RN had a very good rig down at Culdrose, which was made available to our students on SKTU, but once they moved on to the SAR flights they never saw a rig again. I don’t even remember the “full training rig” you delivered; I certainly never received training on it. This was the reason the RAF opted not to upgrade from old RN stock, but instead to procure a display that both the operator and instructor could see simultaneously – it also had the side benefit of being a processed radar that all future radops, recruited from the Nimrod MR2, would be comfortable with. Although a bit of a lash up, it was not a “neither here nor there hybrid”, it was a radar that could provide phenomenal SA in busy sea areas such as the Thames estuary and one which gave the crews enormous confidence.
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