Raytheon UK has completed the critical design review for a major upgrade to the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) Shadow surveillance aircraft fleet.

Announced in November 2021 and valued at £110 million ($133 million), the programme will bring the Beechcraft King Air 350CER-based twin-turboprops to the enhanced R2 standard. It also will deliver two additional aircraft, boosting the fleet size to eight.

RAF Shadow R1

Source: Crown Copyright

The RAF will increase its Shadow fleet size to eight aircraft

“Raytheon UK is on schedule and budget to deliver the first three upgraded aircraft back to the RAF in 2024,” the company said on 9 March. At the time of the contract’s announcement, this had been expected to occur in June 2023.

Full details of the modernisation have not been disclosed, but the work – being performed at the company’s Broughton facility in Wales – is known to include a defensive aids system update, supported by Leonardo and Thales.

Minister for defence procurement Alex Chalk says the upgraded and expanded fleet will provide the RAF with “one of the world’s most modern and capable intelligence-gathering assets”.

Tasked with performing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) duties, the Shadow fleet is operated by 14 Sqn, based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

Meanwhile, Raytheon UK also is to procure a full-flight simulator for the Shadow R2, to be installed in the UK.

“The provision of a new synthetic training facility represents a further enhancement to the programme of record that will deliver an exceptionally capable ISR asset to Defence,” says Air Commodore Alex Hicks, senior responsible owner for the Shadow programme.