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Old 29th Aug 2020, 12:48
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Does anyone know how the Crowsnest programme is progressing? The NOE report suggested concerns about the performance of the radar? I also understand that Westlands have had to recruit the senior engineer from Boeing to ensure the programme succeeds? Hope the SK7s havenít been sold yet, they may be needed for the QE...
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Old 29th Aug 2020, 19:02
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It's an embarrassment .....

Must be a slow day today ZH ? Unless you are of a strong disposition, I'd be inclined to be sitting down before reading some of the links from this gurgle search for 'crowsnest helicopter radar'

The current state of play seems to be merely several feeble shuffles (I cannot bring myself to use the word 'improvements') from the original Searchwater/Sea King fit and at least one generation displaced from reality. It's way out of date and way out of control.
Good for decorational flypasts only.

If it ain't AESA - it ain't gonna win.

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Old 30th Aug 2020, 05:33
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I agree with Lordflasheart. There comes a time when you must stop modifying modifications. The AEW Mk7 was seen as a great success, and it was in a programme sense, succeeding against all the odds given how many fought so hard throughout to scupper it. (Including a signifcant part of the RN, MoD(PE) hierarchy, and AMSO/AML). But it was far more than the radar - which was not selected, but imposed by political over-rule. Searchwater upgrade didn't come close to winning the competition, and the company 'awarded' the contract didn't even bid. But some of the 'peripheral' elements were groundbreaking.
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Old 26th Sep 2020, 14:07
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I got a Crowsnest article on Save the Royal Navy 'suggested' to me by my phone: The strike carrier’s eye in the sky – update on the Crowsnest project

Slightly odd as the conclusion seems at variance with the content. More interested/amused by the readers comments.

Despite the overdue introduction into service, Crowsnest should ultimately deliver an effective ISR at sea and over land, if needed. When the capabilities of the F-35’s sensors are fully exploited and paired with Crowsnest, the situational awareness of the Carrier Strike Group will be excellent. Critics will doubtless bemoan that this is not the gold standard E-2D Hawkeye or speculate about non-existent V-22 Osprey-based AEW solutions but this is an affordable and attainable solution, given the RN’s resources.
I have my doubts that "the situational awareness of the Carrier Strike Group will be excellent", good but in need of improvement. If the carrier group is not supplemented by land based or USN AEW/ASaC I just don't think Crowsnest on Merlin can get high enough to provide the range - if the danger of attack is real, doesn't F35s providing the picture beyond Crowsnest require sending them down the correct threat axis 100% of the time?
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Old 28th Sep 2020, 16:40
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I've heard it has a lot of "repurposed" old kit from the Sea King. Just how much life can you expect to squeeze out of kit that is 30+ years old?
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Old 29th Sep 2020, 04:43
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Originally Posted by XL189 View Post
I've heard it has a lot of "repurposed" old kit from the Sea King. Just how much life can you expect to squeeze out of kit that is 30+ years old?
While the RN only endorsed a quite minor upgrade to the AEW Mk2 (with Fleet embodiment planned over a single week-end, with no training necessary), what became the AEW Mk7 and then ASaC Mk7 went way beyond this. I'd be more worried about the older and less capable kit that's retained from Merlin. Many tend to think of 'ASaC Mk7' as being the radar (which is indeed old but it was a political decision to retain it), but that was actually a quite minor part of the programme, both in technical and financial terms. What I'd be most concerned about is the (reported) failure to appreciate systems integration (and hence functional safety) is quite important. My view is that if any company seeks to extracate itself from this obligation (as happened on Mk7), they should be struck from the list of approved contractors. Thank goodness Westland and GEC-Marconi were around to do the work.
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Old 9th Jun 2021, 04:13
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Old 9th Jun 2021, 06:43
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Originally Posted by XL189 View Post
I've heard it has a lot of "repurposed" old kit from the Sea King. Just how much life can you expect to squeeze out of kit that is 30+ years old?
The radar in the Shakleton AEW2 was re-purposed from the Gannet which in turn was re-purposed from the Skyraider.
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Old 9th Jun 2021, 12:34
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Damn Chevron, you beat me to it.
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Old 9th Jun 2021, 20:21
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Originally Posted by XL189 View Post
I've heard it has a lot of "repurposed" old kit from the Sea King. Just how much life can you expect to squeeze out of kit that is 30+ years old?
and a 45+ years old design, Searchwater was first fielded on the MR2 mid 70s and into service in '79.
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Old 10th Jun 2021, 06:35
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I don't profess to know anything about Crowsnest. I gave up in December 2000 when MASC (one of its predecessors) was recruiting, and announced prior experience on AEW/ASaC was irrelevant as MASC would bear no relation to it. This, despite their plan at the time being to re-use the ASaC Mk7 kit in a Merlin. However, their costings didn't reflect reality, and it was all delayed. Again. When such a decision is made, one often as to wait many years for that person to disappear to allow resurrection. MPA is a good example.

MoD's recent announcement was:

"DASA is looking for ideas that can improve ‘horizon surveillance and/or target detection capability’, ‘operational effectiveness through timely processing and dissemination of information’ and ‘operational efficiency through optimisation of system functionality’."

To me, that implies more than the latest Searchwater derivative is lacking. If you were to ask what was lacking after the Mk7 programme, it was the refusal to integrate the aircraft with the ships (CVSs). This was #1 operational risk from day 1, and where the boundary of responsibility lay was a hot topic. The Mk7 teams (2 of them in the same Directorate, 2 engineers in each) were instructed to leave well alone, that FONA would manage it with FLEET. But if you're managing a boundary, both sides must be involved. Ultimately, and as confirmed in the Board of Inquiry report into the 2003 mid-air .... well, let's just say that MoD statement above is the best summary. In short, the ships' procedures and capability still reflected the old ASW Mk2. The aircraft was in itself capable, and in many ways exceeded the specification. But as a system of systems (aircraft & ship) there was a complete disconnect. In much the same way Nimrod and its tanker were, in isolation, reasonably safe, but when mated the 'system' was totally unsafe. (Tanker, after modification, delivered twice the flow rate Nimrod's fuel lines could cope with). There's obviously a lot more to this, but you get the idea.

This makes me wonder if the approach to Crowsnest was too simplistic. Their starting point should have been, at least, the ASaC Mk7 Post Project Evaluation Report, that laid all this out. (The report listed the three main contributory factors to the mid-air, 2 years before it occurred. It also, as a matter of interest, explained the 2003 Tornado/Patriot shootdown). Crowsnest would/should have used the Mk7's Risk Register as a baseline (the original one, not the two subsequent ones drawn up by senior admin management to conceal MoD-owned risks). I wonder if they were shown it. With MASC's rejection of ASaC staff in 2000, there was no-one in MoD after about 2004 who could explain this to them.

As to the comments about old equipment, there's an old adage - 'Don't modify a modification'. It's not a hard and fast rule, but a warning as to where your main technical risks will be. Searchwater in Nimrod had already been significantly upgraded. Searchwater LAST in Sea King had been upgraded in 1986/7 (G9 Autotrack and INS, which are loosely linked to the above problems, and which were upgraded again for Mk7 - itself a clue as to where technical difficulties lay). This baseline was studied very carefully during planning for what became ASaC, and the result was that a different radar won the competition. The political overrule, directing that Searchwater LAST be retained, meant an evaluation was necessary, for the first time, as to what would constitute 'Retained Searchwater Equipment' (RSE). The overrule meant a significant hike in costs, but with no more funding granted something had to give, and there was quite a bit of RSE that ideally should have been new. The very fact that Crowsnest retained ASaC kit suggests they faced the same restrictions.

In many ways, we're not discussing a system with an ISD of 2023. We're discussing something that is instantly recognisable to anyone who worked on the bid evaluation in 1993. Without knowing them, I think the Crowsnest teams have done a pretty good job given that background. But the standing risks and certainties were, it seems, insurmountable. Now, we could go back further and resurrect the hot air balloon idea....

Last edited by tucumseh; 10th Jun 2021 at 07:25.
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Old 10th Jun 2021, 13:18
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Originally Posted by chevvron View Post
The radar in the Shakleton AEW2 was re-purposed from the Gannet which in turn was re-purposed from the Skyraider.
Ans Grumman Avenger before that
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Old 12th Jun 2021, 20:10
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I apologise for being somewhat adrift in rejoining this discussion and for the many quotes. I should probably just say I agree with tucumseh.

So DASA release an announcement that:
we are seeking a potential successor to the near-term capability, Crowsnest (an EW system fitted to the Merlin Mk2 helicopter), which has a planned out-of-service date of 2029.
A month later FlightGlobal is told of a previously unannounced decade long extension of Merlin's OSD. Are the left and right hands in sync?

So, does this competition mean there has been an outbreak of common sense and the AEW/ASaC penny pinching is at an end? Is the fact that they are looking for an alternative a good sign or window dressing for "We looked at the alternatives but nothing met the requirements of capability, timescale and budget."?

The current assumptions for a follow-on capability to Crowsnest are based around a single, large radar sensor mounted on a type of uncrewed air platform. The purpose of this competition is to investigate the potential of alternative solutions which are not based on this particular approach.
There is a requirement to develop a capability that provides air and surface surveillance to enable over-the-horizon situational awareness to Royal Navy assets deployed within the Carrier and Littoral Strike Groups, where not otherwise available in those formations. The capability should provide Commanders with a clear, detailed and enduring picture of the battlespace. It should also support Commandersí decision-making by providing detection, tracking and recognition of surface and airborne objects within sufficient timescales to react appropriately.
This capability has historically been delivered by sensors mounted on airborne platforms to increase detection range. However, we are interested in any alternative proposals that could match or exceed these capabilities, particularly for low-level and/or signature-controlled threats.
Which, as tuc more eloquently said, suggests the current system has difficulties in doing that.
I despair that without support of an E-2D from a US (or shortly a French) CVN we have two carriers and the future littoral strike ships which will have to rely on a radar that is multiple generations behind the current AN/APY-9. I think a system similar to the proposed E-2D controlling mulitlple UAVs is the paradigm that should be looked at; probably it should based on an new generation tiltrotor. (I never was much of a realist.) I think the UAVs are best used as a force multiplier not a complete replacement for all manned capabilities.

"The capability must be able to support a range of Strike Group missions, be capable of doing so concurrently, and must be effective when used over land as well as the sea.

The system must also be capable of against peer and near-peer threats, and simultaneously not inhibit the Carrier or Littoral Strike Groupís Freedom of Manoeuvre, for example through reliance on air systems with limited range, speed or endurance, or those whose operational effectiveness may be constrained by being based on land.
(Though I will believe it when others see it.)"

Should we take "optimising efficiency by minimising workforce requirement through a reduced operator and support burden" at face value, or is it due to expected recruitment and retention issues. Presumably this means a reduction in available berths for Lookers and Maintainers. You have until Tuesday 6 July 2021 at midday BST to submit your proposals.

3.5 Clarification of what we donít want
For this competition we are not interested in proposals that:
  • constitute consultancy, paper-based studies or literature reviews which just summarise the existing literature without any view of future innovation
  • are an identical re-submission of a previous bid to DASA or MOD without modification
  • offer demonstrations of off-the-shelf products requiring no experimental development (unless applied in a novel way to the challenge)
  • offer no real long-term prospect of integration into defence and security capabilities
  • offer no real prospect of out-performing existing technological solutions
  • comprise platform solutions only, rather than EW solutions and an associated platform
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