Spinflight wrote:Stabilised optics looking 300 miles? Not if there's cloud, haze, shimmer etc. Even if there isn't zoomed in that far it would be a needle in a haystack.
It's optics clearly aren't going to be good for 300 miles. What I meant was at 65,000 feet it has clear LOS back to a ship from over 300 miles away. Besides if it can pickup a windscreen wiper on a lorry from 12 miles up with good visibility it's going to pick up a ship at 60 miles slant range easily. How many of our ship borne helicopters can actually fly 300 miles then conduct a search? None.
Clearly a radar on such a small, 20kg, payload ain't going to be a Searchwater (although Searchwater only weighs 50kg, power demands rule it out for the foreseeable). Thales iMaster as mounted on the Watchkeeper is 30kg and has a published range against vehicles and infantry of 20km, power would still be an issue.But by the time Zephyr T is operational where will we be then? The UK has a world renowned reputation for building small, power efficient remote sensing apparatus, partly due to it's military heritage, but principally due to satellite and probe payloads (and the SSTL micro satellites). And at £3m a pop you can put 10 up for the cost of 1 Merlin. And they'll be up there 24/7 whereas the Merlin would struggle to be airborne for 12 hrs in 24, and thats if you pushed the boat out, and it's completely unsustainable. As a supporting asset it could be fantastic, and at the sort of cost that doesn't break our bank.
As to survivability how many SAM systems, ship borne or land based, actually have the ability to intercept at 65,000 feet? There aren't many fighters that can tote a war load that high or even to 50,000 feet.
Spinflight wrote:Elint? Poshibly, though having to design satellite quality weight reduction technologies for a cheap platform doesn't make sense.
Radar? How much power do you think they'll be putting out? It'll me measured more in milliwatts than watts.
Already happening. The Airbus site lists NIIRS 8 imagery, Radar, Lidar, ESM/Elint and Broadband Comms. We also know that some of the payloads (Radar, Imagery and Comms) are already under development. But realistically we're about 10 years away from operational use. With the pace of development in battery technology, photovoltaic's and UAV payloads at present there is a whole load of work that Zephyr can leverage off. If the pace of development continues in 10 years there could be a more powerful variant than the T capable of carrying all of those payloads simultaneously.