The Sentinel R1 battlefield surveillance aircraft recently completed it’s 100th sortie in counter-Islamic State operations.

Sentinel forms a key part of the RAF’S Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Force, along with E-3D Sentry airborne command and control aircraft, Reaper remotely piloted aircraft systems and RC-135 Airseeker electronic Surveillance aircraft.

Airseeker has also recently completed its 100th operational sortie in the fight against IS, more than 80% of the aircraft’s flying hours to date have been in direct support of operations.

The RAF’S Air Component Commander in the Middle East, Air Commodore Martin ‘ Sammy’ Sampson said:

“Airseeker and Sentinel’s 100th sorties in counter-IS operations demonstrate the exceptional capability the UK is providing to the multinational Coalition. I am extremely proud of the Contribution by our servicemen and women that keep our aircraft flying across the Middle East.”

In 2010 the UK government’s previous Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) announced its intention to “withdraw the Sentinel airborne ground surveillance aircraft once it is no longer required to support operations in Afghanistan.” Sentinel has supported the British Army in Afghanistan and allied efforts in Libya and other locations. This has now been reversed.

The SDSR states:

“Sentinel will be extended in service into the next decade; Shadow until at least 2030; and Sentry and Rivet Joint until 2035”

The Sentinel R1 is an airborne battlefield and ground surveillance aircraft and is operated by a RAF squadron manned by both air force and army personnel. The Sentinel is interoperable with other allied systems such as JSTARS and the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance system.

The programme involved five aircraft and eight mobile ground stations (six on wheeled all terrain vehicles and two in air transportable containers), and a training facility at RAF Waddington. The programme cost £850m, as budgeted. The support contract is for 3200 flying hours per year and between 2015–18 the fleet of five aircraft will have average running costs of £54.4m/year.

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