Non-essential operations with the UK Royal Air Force's Boeing E-3D Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft remain suspended on safety grounds, with no date yet established for returning the surveillance type to routine duties.

"Following the discovery of faults in the radome supports of two aircraft, we have temporarily suspended non-operational routine flying," UK minister for defence equipment and support Peter Luff said in response to a parliamentary question on 19 April.

Describing the action as a precautionary step, rather than a grounding order, he said: "The force remains at readiness to meet UK and NATO commitments, and operational flying will continue as required. On 23 April, Luff confirmed: "The aircraft in the current forward fleet have been checked and show no sign of a similar fault.

"No timescale has yet been set for the resumption of routine flying. We are engaging with all stakeholders, including industry, to address the issue as quickly as possible," Luff said. Northrop Grumman holds a whole-life support programme contract to sustain the E-3D fleet for the UK.

 E-3D Sentry - Crown Copyright

© Crown Copyright

Based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and flown by 8 Squadron, the Sentry aircraft provide the UK's contribution to the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force. The E-3Ds were not committed to supporting any Alliance operations, Luff said.

The E-3D's fuselage-mounted radome houses a Northrop APY-2 surveillance radar, which the RAF says can detect a medium-altitude aircraft from a range of more than 518km (280nm). Each of the service's Boeing 707-based examples is flown with a typical crew of 18 personnel.

Source: Flight International