Raytheon says radar-equipped business jet on course for delivery by the middle of 2005

The UK's first Sentinel R1 Airborne Stand-off Radar (ASTOR) aircraft successfully completed an initial series of six handling-qualities test flights from Raytheon Space & Airborne Systems' Greenville site in Texas last month. The modified Bombardier Global Express business jet - the first of five now under modification for the UK armed forces - will soon have its dual- mode synthetic-aperture radar/ moving target indicator sensor installed, with several of these radars undergoing test and final calibration at Raytheon's El Segundo plant in California.

Raytheon vice-president integrated airborne systems Richard Anderson says the company is on track to deliver the first two ASTOR aircraft by mid-2005, with work to modify the programme's second airframe now around 50% complete at Raytheon Systems' Broughton plant in Wales. The programme is now around 95% towards achieving preliminary military aircraft release, with all modifications fully verified, says Bill Chrispin, ASTOR integrated project team leader for the UK Defence Procurement Agency.

The deliveries will enable the UK to meet a late-2005 in-service date for the £800 million ($1.5 billion) ASTOR battlefield surveillance system, with this to also comprise the availability of three flightcrews, support personnel and two tactical ground stations (TGS). Final deliveries will take place in April 2007, with the complete ASTOR system to comprise five aircraft, six TGS and two operational-level ground stations. The first training course for pilots, air controllers, image analysts and ground personnel will start at RAF Waddington next month.

The Sentinel R1's expected operational capabilities are closely guarded, but Raytheon says the performance of the modified Global Express is "not far short of the 51,000ft [15,550m]" ceiling demonstrated by an unmodified aircraft.



Source: Flight International