UK's Sentinel R1 set for flight test with US-built radar, as second aircraft powers up

Raytheon Systems (RSL) will receive the surveillance radar for the UK's first Sentinel R1 airborne stand-off radar (ASTOR) aircraft by mid-year, and expects to start flight tests using the developmental sensor in the third quarter of 2005.

The UK company is working hard to get trials of the ASTOR system back on track after system engineering and quality control issues led to its initial test radar sustaining damage last August, prompting Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems (SAS) to replace the sensor.

Ground tests of the Sentinel's replacement radar array - which will comprise around 60-70% of its total system assessment - are at an advanced phase in the USA and the programme is meeting its contractual targets, says RSL. The synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indication sensor fits within its "canoe" radome with room to spare, while airframe weight is within its design margins, it adds. "The radar software is clean and we will deliver a 100% working system," it says.

RSL last week achieved power on with its second ASTOR airframe at its Broughton site in Wales, with work on this and the programme's three other aircraft - modified Bombardier Global Express business jets - running ahead of schedule at the facility. The second aircraft will be ready to support elements of the flight test campaign from late 2005.

Acquired under an approximately £970 million ($1.8 billion) programme covering the delivery of five aircraft and eight ground stations, the ASTOR system was originally set to achieve a September 2005 in-service date with the availability of two aircraft and two ground stations. RSL says this schedule is likely to be subject to a delay, but remains confident that the first ASTOR aircraft will conduct operational tests this year.

Raytheon SAS announced last month that it had taken a $55 million charge in relation to the ASTOR programme. The UK Ministry of Defence is to reschedule its in-service date for the system, but RSL says it remains focused on delivering full operational capability during 2007.


Source: Flight International