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CASTOR-C (Canberra)

JFC Fuller

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Before ASTOR (which became Sentinel) there was CASTOR (Corps Airborne Stand-Off Radar), which came in two forms as follows:


Army: CASTOR-I, this was Britten-Norman Islander with the RSRE / Thorn-EMI SAR*- this aircraft has been relatively well documented
RAF: CASTOR-C, this was to use the remaining Canberra PR.9 airframes with a variant of the RSRE / Thorn-EMI SAR*

I do not know whether a PR.9 derivative was flown but I am aware that a Canberra B.6 flew with the RSRE / Thorn-EMI radar equipment installed (a searchwater derivative IIRC). I have never seen an image of the installation but based on the layout of the Canberra (and where other special systems were installed in the airframe when such modifications were made) I have always assumed it was mounted in the nose. Does anybody have any pictures or additional information on the CASTOR-C?

*Ferranti and GEC Avionics also appear to have had a radars in/for this programme- does anybody have any further information about these? I am also aware that there was DEMSAR (Demonstration Synthetic Aperture Radar) based on the design of the US UPD-7 used on OV-1B Mohawk.

Thank you in advance
 

JFC Fuller

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Mike Pryce

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JFC Fuller

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Thanks Harrier,


That is interesting, I was not aware that there was an actual 'fly-off'. I know a lot of the work was undertaken at RSRE in cooperation with Racal. The CASTOR programme, as far as I can tell, seems to have been what stopped the Tornado from replacing the Canberra (as seems to have originally been planned)...?
 

DamienB

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Tornado replace Canberra? What a bally silly idea.

Mind you I lost a bet when the RAF retired the Canberra first.
 

Mike Pryce

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I don't think there was a formal 'fly off', but that the Army preferred the EMI radar after trials, probably because it was so similar to a production item and would be related to the AEW Islander etc. (http://www.spyflight.co.uk/defender.htm ), spreading cost/risk. Going from memory I think there was a plan for the Army to get a dozen or so Islanders with the EMI radars (not sure if it became a formal Staff Target or Requirement?) but the RAF mission muddied the waters and it 'drifted'.

IIRC this comes from a Jane's Defence Weekly article I read from the early/mid 90s.


Edit: Also see http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1983/1983%20-%201459.html. I guess the fact that Thorn EMI were offering two types of CASTOR radar, for the RAF and Army, could have helped their case. From the Flight article it seems TEMI started on the Canberra one first, and then developed the Islander radar after Ferranti got the first contract.
 

JFC Fuller

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Harrier,

As far as I can make out, at least at one point, both the Army and RAF versions were planned, but as you say, it seems to have drifted. The are often talked about alongside Phoenix.

DamienB,

I am working from early 80s references in Hansard that describe Tornado as a Canberra replacement, see: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1981/jan/29/canberra-and-vulcan-aircraft

Also, take a look at the 1981 Review documents that Harrier posted in the Alternative History thread- they have the Canberra out of service by 1986.

There are also references in various publications from the time to a reconnaissance pod being developed specifically for the Tornado (so not the Jaguar pod that got renamed or the much later RAPTOR) though I confess that I have found nothing else.
 

DamienB

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Perhaps I should have added a smiley... the RAF had tried to "replace" the Canberra on so many occasions it had become a running joke that MRCA stood for 'Must Replace Canberra AGAIN'...
 

JFC Fuller

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DamienB said:
Perhaps I should have added a smiley... the RAF had tried to "replace" the Canberra on so many occasions it had become a running joke that MRCA stood for 'Must Replace Canberra AGAIN'...


A bit harsh (but not that harsh), the Canberra had at least been replaced in the theatre strike role by the low-level modified Vulcans and the Buccaneers.


One day I might actually get internet humour! ;D
 

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