The Royal Canadian Navy has a long history of innovative naval aviation applications. This is a characteristic that has served Canada well for decades. And, as Canada finally enters the era of the CH-148 Cyclone Maritime Helicopter, such innovation is a tradition well worthy of continuation. The Cyclone brings its own options. How Canada takes up those options will have a large effect on how capable the RCN and RCAF are in the ship-borne aviation role.
It’s noteworthy that, when the RCN began operating the McDonnell F2H-3 Banshees, the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure was regarded as small to host such jet fighters. Even more noteworthy is that the Banshee was the first Canadian aircraft able to carry Sidewinder missiles. After Banshees retired in 1962, the Sidewinder would not re-enter Canadian service until the missile armed CF-18 Hornets in the ’80s. 
Equally impressive is the feat of equipping RCN warships to operate heavy Anti-Submarine Warfare helicopters. When the CH-124 Sea King first went to sea with the RCN  it was a 10-ton behemoth compared with the lighter helicopters commonly operated by our allies. 
With the CH-148 Cyclone on the verge of entering RCAF service, Canada is once again in a position to show innovation. Despite interminable Cyclone developmental delays, the Sikorsky helicopter still holds promise to be a significant improvement in capability for both RCAF and RCN. There is room for innovation though, the Cyclones can give our military capabilities that are rare among our allies.
And now, with the CH-148 Cyclone, Canada has yet another opportunity to be unbounded by naval aviation conventions. In Britain, the Royal Navy has been looking for replacements for its Sea King AEW fleet. The RN Agusta Westland Merlin shipboard helicopters are in the same class as Canada’s new CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopters.  The winning bid will see Thales UK fit its Searchwater 2000 AEW radar to Merlin airframes. But it’s a rival bid from Lockheed Martin that will be of more interest to Canada and the RCN. Lockheed Martin’s approach was to hang an AEW pod from the weapons pylon.
Lockheed-Martin produces the Vigilance pod. Vigilance, as offered for the Royal Navy’s Crowsnest project to replace the obsolete Sea King AEW helicopters, was mounted on standard Merlin weapon stations on each side of the forward fuselage. A roll-on/roll-off radar operator’s console was also developed. The idea was that, once the new sensor and console were integrated into the helicopter’s wiring and systems, the Vigilance ‘package’ could be readily installed or ‘unshipped’. When installed, each Vigilance pod would cover a 180° swath, so two pods fitted on either side of the helicopter, ensures ‘hemispheric coverage’. 
It is as this ‘bolt-on’ AEW system that Vigilance becomes of potential interest to Canada. If the Vigilance pods and RO/RO operator console can be readily accommodated by a Merlin shipboard helicopters, the system could as easily be adapted to CH-148 Cyclones. Were this done, at a stroke, Canada and the RCN will gain both naval and battlefield AEW capabilities.
It may seem rather late in the day to start making further changes to the already chronically delayed Maritime Helicopter Project. The first RCAF CH-148 Cyclones were only officially delivered in late June 2015 and even those aircraft are not ‘fully compliant’. Those first six CH-148s Cyclone helicopters, despite Jason Kenney’s assurances that the MHP is “back on track”, will need to be brought to ‘fully compliant’ standards.  So, how can we fit in AEW?
Currently, Lockheed Martin does not appear to be actively marketing its Vigilance pods. No doubt, that would change quickly were interest evinced by a highly motivated customer. In any case, the Vigilance is but one pod offering suited to the AEW role. If Lockheed Martin is no longer interested in Vigilance, doubtless a rival will be willing to make a similar pod. 
 The RCN F2H-3 Banshees carried Sidewinder IAs (AIM-9B), the CF-18s carry AIM-9Ms.
 Beginning in 1956, the RCN performed shipboard ASW helicopter trials from flight decks of frigates. The CH-124 Sea King would operate from frigates, destroyers, and supply ships.
 US Navy ASW SH-3 Sea Kings were operated from aircraft carriers. The RCN shipboard ASW helicopter trials from frigates in 1956 used 3.75-ton HO4S-3s (Sikorsky S-55s). In 1963, the year that shipboard ASW Sea Kings entered RCN service, British and Australian naval services were just taking on the 4.2-ton Westland Wessex (Sikorsky S-58) for that same role.
 British Westland Sea King AEW helicopters operate from Royal Navy ‘Harrier carriers’. Crowsnest-modified Merlins will operate from future Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.
 The Royal Navy’s Merlin shipboard helicopter is an Agusta Westland AW101 related to Canada’s cancelled ASW CH-148 Petrel and in-service CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopters.
 The exact shape of the Vigilance pods submitted for the RN Crowsnest contest changed. The first Merlin test pod was quite streamlined, the later installation was larger and ‘boxier’.
 This apparently means work on the ‘Integrated Mission System’ (which coordinates and controls sensors), perhaps the promised more-powerful engines, and, likely, new gearboxes.
 Lockheed Martin’s Vigilance pod is built around a Northrop Grumman fighter-sized radar set, the AN/APG-80 (F-16) or AN/APG-81 (F-35) Active Electronically Scanned Array radars.