The UK Royal Air Force has provided limited details of the operational use in Afghanistan of two of its newest surveillance assets.

Assigned to 5 (Army Cooperation) Sqn at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, Sentinel R1 and Shadow R1 aircraft have now logged a combined 5,000h in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission in the country, the service says. This includes 2,500h amassed by each aircraft type, it adds.

 Shadow Sentinel - Raytheon Systems Limited
© Raytheon Systems Ltd

Deployed to the Middle East region on a full-time basis since July 2009, the Sentinel R1 is a Bombardier Global Express business jet modified to carry a synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indication sensor and related mission equipment. Acquired as part of the UK's Airborne Stand-off Radar (ASTOR) system, the Sentinel fleet totals five aircraft.

"What matters to the man on the ground is not the time the aircraft spend in the air, but what is done with the information," says Wg Cdr Rich Barrow, officer commanding 5 Sqn. "The production of data by the ASTOR ground section delivers actionable intelligence to the individual or unit that needs it, in a format that they can readily understand and use."

Fewer details are known about the RAF's four Shadow R1s, purchased under an urgent operational requirement (UOR) deal to support operations in Afghanistan. However, a Raytheon-produced information sheet issued during the Farnborough air show reveals its role suitability.

 Shadow R1 - Crown Copyright
© Crown Copyright

Crewed by two pilots and with three on-board operator stations, the modified Beechcraft King Air 350CER carries an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optical/infrared camera and other intelligence-gathering sensors, says Raytheon. It also has "a fully integrated communications control system comprising mission radios with datalink and satellite communication capabilities", it adds.

Other modifications to the twin turboprop include the addition of self-protection equipment to provide 360° coverage from ground-based threats. Under its UOR deal, Raytheon is also contracted to provide "ground support equipment, post-design services, further modifications and in-service support."

Flightglobal's MiliCAS database lists the RAF's Shadow R1s as carrying the registrations ZZ416 to ZZ419.

Source: Flight International