The UK has provided one of its Raytheon Systems Sentinel R1 battlefield surveillance aircraft to support France's Operation Serval campaign against al-Qaeda and Islamist militants in Mali, with the aircraft having deployed to an undisclosed location in Africa on 25 January.

One of five heavily modified Bombardier Global Express long-range business jets assigned to the Royal Air Force's 5 Sqn, the asset will provide reconnaissance information by using its dual-mode sensor payload, which comprises a synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indication capability.

 Sentinel R1 - Crown Copyright

Crown Copyright

"Sentinel is deploying to provide a unique intelligence capability in support of French operations within Mali. We look forward to working closely with our French allies, building upon the working relationships established during training and previous operations," says 5 Sqn officer commanding Wg Cdr Al Marshall.

Images released by the RAF identify the deployed aircraft as ZJ694. This is the youngest of the service's Sentinel fleet, with Flightglobal's MiliCAS database showing it was delivered in 2004. While the RAF has not disclosed its current location, media reports suggest the aircraft was flown to Dakar in Senegal.

Sentinel aircraft have supported the UK's involvement in Afghanistan and also took part in the NATO-led campaign over Libya in 2011. The type is home-based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

UK support for the French campaign also includes the continued availability of one of the RAF's Boeing C-17 strategic transports, which has been used to deliver support equipment and personnel to Malian capital Bamako.

France launched Operation Serval in Mali on 11 January.

Source: Flight International