Royal Air Force to bid farewell to Sentinel reconnaissance aircraft

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The Royal Air Force officially retired its fleet of five Raytheon Sentinel R1 reconnaissance aircraft, which became redundant among other operating aircraft.

The Raytheon Sentinel R1, based on the Bombardier Global Express business jet, was an ISTAR (for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition & Reconnaissance ) aircraft which entered service within the Royal Air Force in 2007. The five planes were operated by the No. 5 Squadron, based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, England.

They were first deployed in Afghanistan and have since carried out surveillance missions around Europe, specifically near Crimea and the Baltic Sea. But despite its brilliant service record, the aircraft became redundant in recent years. 

The Royal Air Force inducted eight Beechcraft Shadow R1 (King Air 350CER) in 2008 and three Boeing Airseeker R1 (RC-135W Rivet Joint) in 2013. More recently, nine Boeing P-8 Poseidon MRA (maritime, reconnaissance and attack) Mk.1 maritime patrol aircraft were ordered, of which the first was delivered on February 4, 2020. Those surveillance aircraft are capable of performing the same missions as the Sentinel but feature more modern on-board equipment.

Thus, the retirement of the Raytheon Sentinel R1, announced in 2016, should become effective in March 2021. The aircraft conducted its final operational mission above the Kaliningrad Oblast and Belarus on February 25, 2021.

The withdrawal also gives way to the Protector RG Mk1. The unmanned ISTAR aircraft, based on the best-seller MQ-9 Reaper, took to the skies for the first time on September 25, 2020. Its delivery is awaited for the summer of 2021.


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