British surveillance aircraft were operating over the Black Sea near Crimea at the same time two B-52 bombers approached the disputed territory before turning back.

A Royal Air Force RC-135 and Sentinel were observed operating over the Black Sea.

The Open Source Intelligence Twitter account Intel Air & Sea followed the event earlier, if you don’t follow them then I’d suggest you go do that now.

This isn’t new, B-52 bombers performed a similar ‘mock run’ last year.

This happened not long after a B-52 bomber was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 fighter in international airspace over the Black sea in what NATO described as an ‘unsafe’ manner.

This happened as the the bombers were deployed to “fly over all 30 NATO members in one day”.

A United States Air Force B-52 bomber taking off from Fairford, to participate in training activity “Allied Sky”. Photo courtesy of United States Air Force.
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Daniele Mandelli

That is the Sentinel that is about to be scrapped.

Oh, say the MoD, we have other platforms. Yeah, lets see them deploy like Sentinel can.


We are in the age of information warfare. And those with superior intelligence will win. We should keep Sentinel.

Glass Half Full

Hi Daniele. The UK is probably retiring Sentinel for the same reason the US has not pursued a replacement to JSTARS, namely that both platforms are hopelessly vulnerable in a peer conflict if positioned for effectiveness. The US is moving to a systems-of-systems approach to battlefield surveillance and I presume the UK would be pursuing something similar. Basically networking everything on the ground, in the air, including F-35, and in space, to provide a consolidated picture. Against insurgents both aircraft can operate 40,000 feet above the theater of operations, well above manpad range. Which is probably why the UK retained… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Morning GHF.

I take your points.

Joking, and part serious, but maybe we should keep them for the non peer conflicts then!!! Which is the norm, thank god.

I’m against all cuts. I’m especially against cuts to anything ISTAR.

So in the systems of systems approach what replaces them to provide that capability in a peer conflict in the UK’s inventory? There needs to be something airborne networked to the other systems? Space based sensors?

Glass Half Full

Good day to you too DM. I guess my general view is prioritizing for maximum effect and deterrence against a peer with survivable platforms, so while we might cut assets like Sentinel, heavy armour and the current approach to amphibious capability as examples, we instead invest in assets that would make a difference, especially in the critical early hours of a major conflict in order to hopefully never have to fight one. ISTAR is table stakes. The short answer is that the UK has to build up the system, the US is in a similar position with Joint All-Domain Command… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Fascinating reply GHF. Thank you. I will delve further.


Atleast the rivet joints look to be staying for a while longer.

Mark F

Just like the good old cold war days I miss it. Yes I was in the military in the 80s, 90, to 2007. The 80s was the better decade we all had a job to do and everyone new were they stood on both sides.


Putin’s got his panties in a twist now. lol

Jason Holmes

I can’t see the Sentinel making it past the next defence review, they have been trying to get rid of it for years and with no upgrade programme in place. I bet the two tranche 1 Typhoon sqn’s go too. I would also be surprised if the Army Watchkeeper survives, at least in Army service.


The decision to scrap Sentinel has already been made and the fleet disposal plans have kicked in with the 5th aircraft not returning and the remaining 4 drawing down from November this year.


The UK government is well stupid. The Sentinel R1 was operational in 2004, its first combat use was in 2008, by 2010 it was decided that they were no longer needed after Afgan ops finished. So almost £1 billion spent for five aircraft that after 6 years of work was made surplus to requirements. I do not know if the electronic suite is still up to scratch, but I would think that the electronics is still good enough for coast guard, fishery protection or anti drug patrols in the Caribbean. From my understanding some upgrades were carried out in 2015… Read more »


Trials where carried out to fit a maritime sensor to pick up the equivalent of maritime IFF however this didn’t go much further than that. The main issues around sentinel lies with the required green aircraft upgrades to keep them legal in controlled airspace and the mission suite obsolescence both of which are significant cost projects which would mean an effective capability gap for at least 3 years, stand aside the IFF mode 5 issue and minimum theater entry standards which are now in force. The MODs lack of investment and poor decision making historically around sentinel and the current… Read more »

Steve Martin

I presume this would be to gain Intel on the Russian response and interception?

Kev Allon

What are the RAF doing in the Black Sea, the Crimean War finished in 1856, we got our asses kicked, 21,000 died through illness and battles, didn’t we learn anything?
Why are we antagonising the Russians just to appease warmongering Americans?
In a minute it’s all going to go horribly wrong.