Malaysia's long-held requirement to field an airborne early warning (AEW) capability will see Lockheed Martin UK Integrated Systems formally launch a product in the country in December.

Dubbed "Vigilance", the system combines mission equipment developed for the UK Royal Navy's AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin HM2 multi-role helicopter upgrade with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar technology provided by Northrop Grumman.

 Vigilance pod on Merlin - Lockheed Martin

© Lockheed Martin

The pod-housed system has already undergone a trial fit on an AW101 Merlin helicopter

The latter draws on the company's APG-80 radar developed for the Lockheed F-16 Block 60 fighter and the APG-81 scaleable agile beam radar, being offered as an upgrade option for earlier versions of the type.

"We bring the same performance as a fighter radar, although it will be an APY- [AEW sensor] in function" said George Riley, Northrop's manager for surveillance systems business development.

Vigilance sensors will be mounted in self-contained pods and be capable of supporting tasks such as AEW, fighter control, and maritime and border surveillance, said Neil Morphett, system solutions engineering group manager for Lockheed Martin UK.

"We are aiming to be as minimally disruptive to the aircraft as possible. We just need power on the aircraft and a hard point for mounting the sensor," he added.

Each pod will contain its own cooling system and other equipment, while a system interface panel will allow for the rapid integration of additional sensors, such as an electro-optical/infrared camera. Pod installation should take less than 4h, Morphett said.

Carrying one pod mounted on either side of its fuselage, a medium utility helicopter such as the Mil Mi-17 would be able to provide 360° radar coverage, with each AESA sensor's field of regard being expanded by the use of using a mechanical positioner.

Other potential host platforms could include the Airbus Military CN-235 and Lockheed C-130 transports, with these to be equipped with roll-on, roll-off mission stations for up to four operators. Rotorcraft are likely to be equipped with one operator station, and the ability to downlink data to analysts or commanders on the ground.

One radar has recently undergone vibration testing at Northrop's Baltimore site in Maryland, with this to undergo three months of industry-funded flight trials in the UK from the first quarter of 2012, using a prototype pod installed on a "medium-size" helicopter.

The first production-standard system is now in manufacture, and customer deliveries could commence within two years, said Younus Mustafa, Lockheed's capture manager for the Vigilance product. The company will launch the Vigilance product at a Tangent Link conference in Malaysia in late November, before promoting the system at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition.

Source: Flight International