Britain’s retired fleet of Sentinel aircraft is to be sold to the U.S. Army and flown to the United States after work is undertaken to make them flyable again.

A source on the team that was supposed to be scrapping the aircraft last night told me:

“The Ministry of Defence has accepted a joint bid from Raytheon USA/Bombardier. This will involve us making the aircraft flyable again to go over to the States. The rumoured end customer is the U.S. Army.” 

It is understood that much of the systems had already been stripped out in preparation for scrapping. When I asked what work is being done on them in the UK, I was told:

“Work has started to make them serviceable for flight already. Just enough to get them over the pond. Nothing to do with the mission side.”

It’s reasonable to assume that work will be done in the United States to provide new/updated mission systems.

The move is somewhat controversial as the Ministry of Defence previously advise that the aircraft were to be sold for scrap and “not for reuse”. According to the Ministry of Defence in a potential sales notice last year:

The Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA) is inviting expressions of interest from Companies interested in being considered for receiving an Invitation to Tender (ITT) in respect of the proposed sale of the aircraft for stripping so to harvest all reusable parts for potential resale, recycling or disposal and final dismantling and removal of the remaining platforms. Note these aircraft are not for reuse.

It would seem the Ministry of Defence have changed their minds on that last point.

What did Sentinel do?

The aircraft, described on the Royal Air Force website as “the most advanced long-range, airborne-surveillance system of its kind in the world”, provided the British armed forces with long-range, wide-area battlefield surveillance, delivering intelligence and target tracking information. The aircraft had been operationally deployed in support of operations in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali, and was deployed in support of British and Coalition operations in Iraq and Syria.

Sentinel in flight over Iraq.

The Sentinel R1 fleet was a key C4ISTAR asset for the British armed forces. Operated by the Royal Air Force’s No5 Army Cooperation Sqn, the Airborne Stand-off Radar system incorporates linked ground components with the aircraft’s powerful active electronically-scanned array surveillance radar, the system included a moving target indicator and was capable of generating synthetic aperture radar imagery, for what the Royal Air Force called “unparalleled situational awareness”.

The imagery is then passed by secure data links to ground stations at all levels of command and control. By operating at high altitudes, and at considerable longrange stand-off distances, the radar platform is able to remain over safe territory while providing an excellent ‘look-down angle’ of the target area.

Why was Sentinel retired?

Officially, the aircraft was scrapped “due to obsolescence” with the Ministry of Defence claiming that the aircraft was “now increasingly obsolescent and will face increasing reliability issues as time progresses”. It was becoming obsolete because the money wasn’t spent to upgrade it.

Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement at the Ministry of Defence, even stated that Sentinel was introduced in 2008 in the knowledge that a significant equipment upgrade would be required in the mid-2010s.

Sentinel was introduced in 2008 in the knowledge that a significant equipment upgrade would be required in the mid-2010s. The Defence Review in 2010 cancelled this expected upgrade bringing forward the likely out of service date. The SDSR 2015 determined that Sentinel should be retained for a further period and set a new out of service date of March 2021. While some work was conducted on the on-board equipment this fell well short of a full system upgrade. The radar and mission system are now increasingly obsolescent and will face increasing reliability issues as time progresses. Retaining the capability would have required significant upgrade expenditure.

The UK however never found that money, never upgrading Sentinel.

Defence Analyst Howard Wheeldon was quoted here saying that the Ministry of Defence should have found the cash for the modernisation of the jet.

“That Sentinel required capability upgrading should not have been the reason for its premature withdrawal. ISTAR remains one, if not the most important, element of air power capability and taking a [capability] gap is unacceptable. The decision to scrap Sentinel capability is not only one of the worst that emerged out of SDSR 2015 but it is also the one that I believe the U.K. will most likely come to regret. The lack of such important capability, and with no imminent replacement in prospect, is dangerous and ill advised.”

What will the U.S. use it for?

That’s currently unknown but the aircraft is almost identical to concept imagery used to depict the replacement for the E-8 JSTARS replacement.

Look familiar?

However, during the 2019 U.S. budget rollout it was announced that the U.S. Air Force will not move forward with an E-8C replacement aircraft. Funding for the JSTARS recapitalisation program was instead be diverted to pay for development of an advanced battle management system comprising of a network of sensors linked to a ground-based command and control system.

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Quentin D63
Quentin D63
9 days ago

Hopefully all the monies made from these type of sales is being sensibly reinvested back into procurement for the UK armed forces and not wasted somewhere.

Sisyphus
Sisyphus
9 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

LOL … I would suspect any money received will be used by the MOD to fund the repairs to make these aricraft ‘flyable’ …

Steve
Steve
9 days ago
Reply to  Sisyphus

And assuming there is any money left. I assume someone had already arranged a contract for them to be scraped, which will still need to be paid for. plus as stated costs of getting them flyable again.

David Barry
David Barry
9 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Any money paid, is made out to HM Treasury. 🙂

Ron5
Ron5
9 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

Correct. The MoD doesn’t get a windfall.

Chris rebel
Chris rebel
9 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

Then the MOD has to beg for it a second time. Almost makes sense to never sell anything if this is the process.

Gareth
Gareth
7 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

You give the MOD far too much credit 😂

They fudge these things up on the regular.

Mark Forsyth
Mark Forsyth
9 days ago

Was a terrible decision back then to scrap them, and even more so now.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
8 days ago
Reply to  Mark Forsyth

The year 2010 is emerging as the ‘annus horribilis’ of the British armed services. A bad decision carried forward. (See also HS2)

HF
HF
7 days ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

The sell off of the Harrier fleet was another, and the scrapping of Nimrod MR4, both for political reasons,not military or financial.

Bill Masen
Bill Masen
3 days ago
Reply to  HF

Just like the TSR2 in the 60s and the Blue Streak

HF
HF
3 days ago
Reply to  Bill Masen

I think Blue Streak was scrapped because of the difficulty of siting land based liquid fuel IRBMs anywhere in the UK. No arguments about TSR2.

Paul42
Paul42
9 days ago

Another prime example of the UK axing a key capability and others benefitting from our inept stupidity. In a modern world it beggars belief….the airframes clearly have a lot of life left in them yet, they just needed a systems upgrade which of course we couldn’t afford to pay for.

Sisyphus
Sisyphus
9 days ago
Reply to  Paul42

As a nation we could afford it [a systems upgrades] but the MOD chose not to. The ministers who announced the decision wont be accountable of course, but will gratefully receive any non-exec directorships with various companies in the military-industrial procurment chain, the faceless bean counters who actually did the powerpoint presentations explaining jam tomorrow, have moved up the chain of command in the classic peter principle manner [you rise to your level of incompetence], and the managed decline of our armed forces continues to despair.

Paul42
Paul42
9 days ago
Reply to  Sisyphus

It is despair. We could have updated those aircraft and had a key capability so badly need over the battlefield. But its one lot of defence cuts after another, with no actual thought for the guys and girls that get sent out to fight for Queen and Country…….

Gareth
Gareth
9 days ago
Reply to  Sisyphus

Perhaps it should become a standard that when decisions like this are made (in any sector not just defence) that a named minister and civil servant project leader accompanies the news report and an attempt should be made to have them explain their decision making in public. At least then they are accountable in future if anything bad happens as a result.

Never liked Dominic Cummings but his idea that a civil servant / minister’s job success/failure should follow them to their next post was a decent one.

Python15
Python15
8 days ago
Reply to  Gareth

Well said!!

Ashley
Ashley
8 days ago
Reply to  Sisyphus

Very well spoken

farouk
farouk
9 days ago

So the question I have to ask is:
“What will the dishonorable ladies and gentlemen in the seats of power sell of next?”

Paul42
Paul42
9 days ago
Reply to  farouk

Anything up to and including their grandmothers…..

David Barry
David Barry
9 days ago
Reply to  farouk

Farouk, is Danielle OK?

RobW
RobW
9 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

Do you mean the man called Daniele?

It has been confirmed many times that he has meat and two veg 😂

David Barry
David Barry
9 days ago
Reply to  RobW

Not asking about his meat and 2veg, just haven’t seen him posting. I hope he is OK.

RobW
RobW
9 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

Do you have reason to suspect he isn’t? I’m not being funny, just interested as he is an ever present source of reason on this site.

BTW I was just referring to your spelling of his name.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
9 days ago
Reply to  RobW

Thanks Rob. Respect to you for noticing the spelling, my thanks.

Ian
Ian
8 days ago

Hi Daniele
I always look for replies from You ,Gunbuster Deep, Davy B ,Chariot and a few others….. as always thanks for your input……

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 days ago
Reply to  Ian

Hi Ian.

Thank you.

Klonkie
Klonkie
8 days ago

Big ditto from me! Good to see you back D!

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 days ago
Reply to  Klonkie

Hi K. 👍

David Barry
David Barry
9 days ago
Reply to  RobW

Just haven’t seen him posting, which he normally does with alacrity, especially matters RAF.

Lusty
Lusty
9 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

I have seen him posting today, which means he’s still with us! Of course, I hope he is okay and not in a drunken stupor over this announcement! Haha.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
9 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

😆 Hello All!

It is nice to be missed.

Lusty
Lusty
9 days ago

Of course!

Hey, mate.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
9 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

Just had 3 Days of family chaos and work commitments. No time to study here.
Sentinel is gone, I have long got over it.
Why scrap when an ally can use them.
While I get the reasons wrt tech changing and the capability becoming more split over other platforms and UAV I still would have preferred we retain the Sentinels regardless.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
9 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

Hello David, all well here.

David Barry
David Barry
9 days ago

Good news!

Joe16
Joe16
9 days ago

It’s always a shame to lose a capability, and Sentinel seems to have fallen into the very British trap of not receiving ongoing updates to keep it relevant (when will we learn?!). But, if it had to go, then I’m glad they’re not being scrapped- I expect we’ll get a better price for them and I don’t think it’ll all go on getting them airworthy again. In the medium term, the capabilities of the Sentinel are going to be taken up by drones (Protector, Vixen etc. will all have ISTAR capabilities), which is a good thing because the environment is… Read more »

Goldilocks
Goldilocks
9 days ago

This is something you don’t hear about nowadays – the US tries to buy as much first-hand, American built equipment into its military as possible. This could parellel to when we sold are retired Harrier’s to the US, the Marines wanted to fly them but the US did not let them – time will tell us if whatever US service wants to use them but if they do, they’ll have a world-class capability we shoved aside

Padre
Padre
7 days ago
Reply to  Goldilocks

The bit about our Harriers is not strictly true. They bought them and stripped out their parts to keep theirs flying because of the delays in the F-35 program. They literally had no choice because no other aircraft is capable of flying off their littoral carriers such as the Wasp Class. The US also announced that they would not use the Harrier in a contested environment. Our “world-class capability” was a capability many years ago, but a 1950’s design which was developed way beyond it’s potential by the time it was finally retired is simply not good enough for the… Read more »

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
5 days ago
Reply to  Padre

The USMC acquired our Harrier fleet for parts, that part is true but after the loss of 10 Harriers in a commando raid by the Taliban in Afghanistan the majority went to replace these losses and still fly to this day

Marked
Marked
9 days ago

Pros and cons of them being withdrawn from service aside, it’s better to see an airframe with life left in it being used, seems so wasteful to send them to be scrapped.

Knight7572
Knight7572
9 days ago

The Raytheon Sentinel is just the latest high-profile victim of the problem that did in HMS Bristol and USS Enterprise CVN-65

Tim Hirst
Tim Hirst
9 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

What?

Knight7572
Knight7572
9 days ago
Reply to  Tim Hirst

There were only 5 Raytheon Sentinel R.1 made and HMS Bristol was supposed to be the lead ship of an 8 ship Type 82 Destroyer and USS Enterprise CVN-65 was supposed to be the lead ship of a 6 ship Enterprise-Class Aircraft Carriers but only the lead ships got built
There were never enough of them around to make the operating costs affordable and once the numbers war shifted they become uneconomical to run

John Fedup
John Fedup
9 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

CVN-65 had several smaller reactors (8 I think). The Nimitz class appeared about 10 years thereafter with 2 big reactors. This was a much better option than building additional Enterprise class CVNs.

Bambo
Bambo
8 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

There were only ever going to be 4-6 ASTOR, so that wasn’t an issue. Although losing the capability is daft, the timing was surprisingly consistent. Stretching my memory a bit they were due in service in 06 and out in ’18; the ISD was a couple of years late and the retirement the same.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
8 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

HMS Bristol was around for yonks.

She was the trials ship for Sea Dart.

She was taken out of service when her steam m/GT power plant blew up for the fourth (?) time. It had got silly and she was massively expensive to run.

She was launched in 1969 and in service 1973 – 1991 so not far off her intended 25 year hull life.

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 days ago

So even without the Rolls-Royce Marine Olympus TM1A engine failure, she was coming to the end of her hull life which would’ve been 1998 although she’d probably still end up as a harbour training ship

Lee H
Lee H
9 days ago

Good Morning All Whilst it is disappointing to see a great capability lost technology has moved on and we were in no position to support the capability (in the Sentinel form) post the end of the Afghanistan campaign (where the RDEL funding came from). It is a shame that HMG decided to make a mess of their disposal, it makes them look as though they are hiding something. We should be looking at different platforms to provide us the capability these aircraft delivered over their years of service. We have Protector coming into service, a game changer (10hrs + airborne),… Read more »

Alabama Boy
Alabama Boy
6 days ago
Reply to  Lee H

The E3D was bought to work alongside IUKADGE to plug the many low level radar gaps that exist and was partly manned by IKADGE controllers. Ground based radar cannot fill these gaps whatever is claimed by some, the curvature of the earth has to be taken into account Ground based radar are also venerable to first strike and terrorist activity given they are often sited in remote locations difficult to hide and defend. For the same reason NATO countries bought 18 E3As to fill the gaps in European radar coverage. The E3 also pushes the radar coverage far out over… Read more »

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
9 days ago

BIZARRE

MIKE TURTON
MIKE TURTON
9 days ago

The 2010 Defence Review has a lot to answer for when it comes to the poor state of current and ‘planned for’ defence capability and equipment: anything that needed addressing was kicked into the long grass which has created numerous capability gaps in all three services.

Ron5
Ron5
9 days ago
Reply to  MIKE TURTON

Geo Osbourne, the gift that keeps giving.

Ian
Ian
8 days ago
Reply to  Ron5

Assisted by Cameron……

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
8 days ago
Reply to  Ian

… and Clegg. Slash and burn.

HF
HF
7 days ago
Reply to  Ron5

Just leave the ‘f’ out…

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
9 days ago

The USMC were happy to get our Harrier fleet and I’m sure the US army will be happy to get our Sentinel fleet for next to nothing, When will we learn!!

Andrew D
Andrew D
9 days ago

Spot on 👍

JohninMK
JohninMK
9 days ago

Sadly that’s what happens when you are a junior partner.

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
8 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

It’s not a case of being junior partner’s but more the case of having our political and military elite with the same IQ as the average goldfish.
(sorry if you are a goldfish lover it is a bit of an insult to them)

Bringer Of Facts
Bringer Of Facts
9 days ago

I really don’t understand why we are retiring, rather than upgrading this amazing piece of kit.

JohninMK
JohninMK
9 days ago

The military have probably done a risk/benefit analysis and decided that the risk that its features are likely to to needed during the years that will pass before a drone replacement is available is low and there are more vital items to spend the money on..

Ian
Ian
8 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

Where are all these operational drones that are replacing exiting kit
Every time I read about drones replacing existing kit…. Where is taking place…. Prince of Wales ….Drone ship….. not up to Turkish drone availability

MikeB1947
MikeB1947
8 days ago

The US have an excellent history of upgrading aircraft and keeping them operational. The B-52, KC-135 and C-5A are good examples and even some older American designs are kept flying, albeit in secondary roles. It’s a pity that the British government and MoD have never gone in for upgrading aircraft, instead of their get-rid and buy new policy.

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 days ago
Reply to  MikeB1947

Yeah but there is 1 problem with that which is you can only upgrade something for so long before you reach the limit

MikeB1947
MikeB1947
8 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

The Americans appear to get round that problem, with the B-52s seemingly going on for ever.

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 days ago
Reply to  MikeB1947

No they haven’t as the B-52 is nearly 7 decades old and spare parts will be a problem

Aaron
Aaron
8 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

Greetings from the USA..The USA has had its fair share of mistakes. However, one of its better ideas is that there are huge reclamation fields in the Southwestern states that keep all parts of all aging aircrafts. For example the B52…all the dozens of previous 52’s that have been scrapped are kept in as good of condition as possible to keep parts and repairs possible. F16s, F15…hundreds and hundreds of planes kept in good condition for parts. This allows older aircraft the ability to be kept flying…The best of those planes are kept even in better condition and can be… Read more »

MikeB1947
MikeB1947
8 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

Why didn’t they scrap them all many years ago, instead of keeping them in the air?

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 days ago
Reply to  MikeB1947

Because the B-52’s versatile payload keeps it around

Mike
Mike
8 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

B52s are a bit like Trigger’s broom.

Last edited 8 days ago by Mike
Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
5 days ago
Reply to  Mike

😆🤣

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

So they have a huge but finite spare parts supply

Ryan Brewis
Ryan Brewis
8 days ago

Can Protector pick up the strain here, pick up the information and send it back to base? Split the collection and analysis between the airframe and home, so to speak. Or is there just not enough being ordered to cover this, AEW, MPA, strike and making the tea?

Simon m
Simon m
8 days ago

In no place in the IR or command paper did I notice priorities for a national flagship, numerous private jets & for a voyager to be painted in Union Jack colours. It is still completely underhanded that the decision to scrap the R1 was made prior to any review

Nicholas Bassett
Nicholas Bassett
8 days ago

New defence equipment costs the price of a caviar and champagne banquet. … Second-hand defence equipment has the value of, in the words of an ex-USA president, “…used bubble-gum…”, … “you kind of don’t want it back after it’s been used”.

DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan
8 days ago

I am rather skeptical of the report that these aircraft, if indeed they are being sold, are destined for the US Army. There is an agreement between the US Air Force and the US Army as to what type of aircraft each service will operate. The US Army only operates turboprop airplanes and has no jet powered aircraft. Even if the US Army should acquire them it has no logistics and mechanical support units to support them. The mission flown by the Sentinel is a US Air Force mission. I doubt the US Air Force would relinquish it without a… Read more »

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 days ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

Arguably jets have longer endurance

DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan
7 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

I should have also mentioned that these airplanes cannot be acquired without an appropriation from the US Congress and there has been no reporting in the US that such a purchase is even being contemplated. Certainly if Congress has been consulted it would be in the press.

Knight7572
Knight7572
7 days ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

Won’t the British have removed the sensitive tech so its just the bombardier global express airframe

Monty
Monty
7 days ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

The US Army operates Gulfstream C-20 and C-37s and Cessna UC-35 Citations. These are jet aircraft.

Knight7572
Knight7572
7 days ago
Reply to  Monty

They are transports

Monty
Monty
1 day ago
Reply to  Knight7572

There is no restrictions on power plants. Only weights and capabilities. Aerial reconnaissance has been a capability the US Army has retained from the establishment of the USAF and the Key West Agreements. If the Army can fly a C-37 Gulfstream why couldn’t it fly another business size jet for a misson it is authorized to have? Is there a reference I should read?

Anthony
Anthony
7 days ago

Does make you wonder just who is running our Armed Forces. Accountants or the Military. Accountants I think.

Jexlee
Jexlee
7 days ago

This all sounds alot like awacs all over again, as they are going to the USA soon. They have it the right idea. They still use assets like awacs, the airframes they use are from the 70s. Shocking what our government is doing to the armed forces. Tornado gone could have been upgraded Awacs gone could have been upgraded Sentinal gone could have been upgraded Tristar gone and left on a old airfield could have been used longer VC10 gone airframes were good for many years instead, gone We rent out tankers pay over the odds for them why didn’t… Read more »

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
5 days ago
Reply to  Jexlee

The defence budget only goes so far. And we have some excellent equipment in service today. And another 190Bn is being spent on new kit fit for the 21st century over the next 10 years. Clinging onto old kit just drains resources for current and new kit.

Rob
Rob
7 days ago

I hope we buy the extended warranty, if not than it’s on us ..!!

Ron Stateside
Ron Stateside
7 days ago

G550 or 560? Or scrap it all and go with networked drones? Come on lads forget about the past!

George Parker
George Parker
4 days ago

Yet another military asset lost due to improper financial management. So what are we using now for long-range, wide-area battlefield surveillance, intelligence gathering and target tracking?
Cadets on bicycles. But they must buy their own smart phones.