In the short term the fleet will go from 5 to 4 as the RAF are forced to cut one of the aircraft, a unique capability in Europe, in order to save money.

It is understood now that a push to extend the service of the aircraft to 2021 has been unsuccessful and the type will retire in the coming years.


The Sentinel is an airborne battlefield and ground surveillance aircraft based on the Bombardier Global Express ultra long range business jet and serves a role similar to JSTARS with the RAF, the jet was adapted by Raytheon to meet the RAF’s requirements.

Sentinel was originally known as the ASTOR (Airborne STand-Off Radar) programme.

In 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the retention of the aircraft in the face of their expected retirement due to budget cuts.

Last October, Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin announced a £131.5 million support contract for RAF’s Sentinel surveillance aircraft. The deal with Raytheon UK will provide the Sentinel aircraft with in-service support and maintenance, meaning it can continue to meet the RAF’s operational requirements.

With the ability to gather intelligence on enemy movements and track specific targets, the Sentinel remains a key element in the UK’s operations against Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin said:

“Sentinel aircraft provide vital intelligence to our Armed Forces, giving them the ability to make decisions that helps keep Britain safe, including on current operations against Daesh.

As part of our £178 billion equipment plan, this contract is supported by a Defence budget that will rise every year until the end of the decade, meeting the NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP on Defence. This new support contract will sustain 160 jobs across the UK and demonstrates the very tangible benefits which Defence is bringing to the nation’s economy.”

Despite this often touted £178 billion equipment plan, there will now be a cut in numbers and eventual scrapping of the capability.


  1. For Gods sake stop all these cuts already. We actually need our armed forces strengthening not slashed back to the bone. I think we need a parliamentary rule enshrined in law that any defence cut proposed has to be debated by the defence select committee first and agreed by majority vote before any more cuts are allowed.
    HMS Ocean going
    numbers of type 26 frigates reduced to just 8
    Astute class reduced to just 7
    Type 45 destroyers just 6
    Final numbers of F35bs in service uncertain at this time
    no real MPA aircraft for another 2-3 years
    RFA diligence scrapped.
    Harpoon decommissioned without replacement. All in all the Tory party do not appear to be very good on defence after all.
    We cannot afford to fund defence and public services properly then why did they cut corporation tax and higher rate income tax?
    why did we give £13 billion away in foreign aid last year? Absolute scandal.

    • The ‘foreign aid’ is a bribe to potentially unfriendly countries to keep them on side – just like paying off the playground bully. They hope by doing this that there will be less need for the armed forces. They’ve learned nothing from Munich in 1938 or from countless blackmailers who never stop at just one demand.

      • With the current outburst of terrorist attacks in the UK, it is highly likely money could be spent on increasing policing, and security services, beyond current and planned allocations.
        Within, such an increased budget, the MOD should benefit in accordance with the level of armed forces involvement? However, such a realignment if pursued, will come at a cost in general defence spending, as all other ministries, post election, are ‘politically’ watertight.
        I must admit cutting surveillance capability at this time, appears to be at odds, with the growing terrorist threat? Some terrorist actions are planned outside the countries on their target lists, so any capability, such as Sentinel, that could assist in averting such actions is worthy of serious reconsideration.

  2. The prospects for the future of the defence budgets are not looking. In the current post election climate it looks like public services will get priority. Brexit has hit the value of Sterling so US purchases will cost us more. Would really like to understand whether a diesel Type 26 FFBNW Mk41 is not best choice for the RN. If BAe want to market an export stretched Khareef fine, then they can do this unsubsidised by the RN.

  3. Yet more cuts…will they never end? Labour would destroy the armed forces but under the tories its a death by a thousand cuts. And except for UKIP there are no parties in goverment that would halt cuts or even increase spending.

  4. Totally agree with the previoys comments

    Any options to place these assets in reserve rather than scrapping. More capability and numbers are urgently needed at this time.

    With the current exchange rate and uncertainty time to build more systems in the UK e.g. more typhoons, frigates and submarines whilst extending the servuce lives of current ships and aircraft.e.g hms ocean

    Use part of the foreign aid budget to fund these aircraft, additional a400ms bought cheap from Germany, and Marlins for 2 new hospital ships. An infrastructure to deliver aid.

  5. All fur coat and no knickers.Why not just get rid of everything and give the money to all those poor immigrants…..I give in!

  6. Absolutely essential now that we start cutting the Army to help fund the RAF and RN. We just don’t need an Army of this size

  7. Disgusting, the government will scrap the aircraft and a couple of years down the line they’ll be reordering something similar because they find they need them.
    It will cost the taxpayer a fortune in decommissioning costs and another fortune to pay for the new aircraft.

    • Absolutely William – we only need to look at SDSR2010; scrapped Nimrod and now we are shelling out billions for 9 P-8As that we won’t get fully for 10yrs….. absolutely incredulous! – Mindboggling!!!!

  8. Well that makes no sense whatsoever. A heavily used asset since its introduction and much valued by our armed forces and our allies. Further evidence that the Conservatives aren’t quite the defenders of our armed forces that they make themselves out to be.

    • Oh and by the way, any money shaved off the Aid budget would go straight into the NHS so I would not hold your breath there.

  9. No cuts to the 20,000 or so staff at Defence Equipment and Support agency. Just how many people are actually needed to buy food and toilet paper for our 150,00 armed forces personel? That’s like us having a personal shopper for every rifle section! Not that we even have enough rifle sections for that, it would be more like one personal shopper per fire team of 4 soldiers.

    It’s not like they buy useful stuff like CAMMs for our QEs, or Scan Eagle UAV systems (they just rent those), or Harpoon missile maintenance contract extensions. Not even a simple second hand ship to replace Diligence with, prefering instead to blow £28m on her in refits before paying her off just 2 years later. How about 20,000 more troops instead of them or a decent pay rise for the troops we do have? The troops who actually do do useful and hard and life threatening work.

  10. Not to worry
    Prince of Wales will be mothballed or sold
    Might as well as we wont have enough escorts for two carriers let alone aircraft for them
    The way we have declined in the last 40 odd years is amazing
    I remember when i sailed on Lyness during the fleet revue of 77 following the Britania what a sight to behold
    Now if we did a fleet revue we could just hire a swimming pool as that will be big enough

  11. Unfortunately this is the impact of constantly trying to play top trumps with equipment.

    If we had gone slightly less powerful but a lot cheaper with the carriers, t45’s or the upcoming frigates, we would have money to invest in numbers.

    • If we showed a bit of vision, purpose and consistent long term thinking that would help a lot. Come up with coherent equipment plans and stick to them instead of letting defence be a political football that gets kicked about and every time someone kicks it in a different direction a little bit more air escapes until the whole thing is in danger of deflating completely.

      Look at the carriers for instance. We could have made them about half the size and saved about £2 billion, or we could have stuck to the original build plan without the artificially slowed down build for 2 years plus the design fees and extra slowdowns from the CATOBAR flip-flop and also saved £2 billion which, if we also had a well planed and purposeful build schedule for T26, would probably have funded 3 more of those.

      • It’s a deliberate policy. It makes them look good. Public pronouncement is to do lots of stuff. Private policy is to secretly delay due to lack of will/cash – and then blame someone else when it all goes horribly wrong – as it was actually intended to do.

        Pity is that they actually end up spending far more than if they had done it properly in the first place.

  12. How can it be right to spend £131 billion in October 2016 to keep the aircraft and then decide they’re not required in June 2017? Oh, I know . Strategic planning.

      • Or this is the post-Brexit-referendum devaluation of Sterling beginning to bite? Maybe the MoD has finished its modelling, and/or given up hoping for any meaningful Sterling recovery, and is seeing just how far off the overall budget numbers are from adding up now when they start looking at what all the future $-denominated purchases are expected to cost in Sterling terms. In reaction maybe they are starting to implement relatively small cuts left, right and centre to try and balance the books and hope they can get away without big embarrassing cuts to more visible showcase/headline items (T26, F-35, Ajax, personnel numbers etc).

  13. We need political change, austerity and cuts have totally failed to deliver a vibrant growing and powerful economy able to support public services.
    we need to reverse course. Set up a public infrastructure fund using 1-2% tax income to fund infrastructure directly.
    increase corporation tax back to 21%, put higher rate tax back upto 45-50%
    As a UK citizen and taxpayer I would be more than happy if income tax was put up by 5%. We are a nation of high personal income and low tax enabling a growing divide between the rich and poor.
    Income tax is the fairest tax and thus the more you earn the more you pay. That is simply fair.
    A 5p increase in income tax I would spend via
    1p extra to defence £9 billion a year more
    1p extra to social care
    1p to nhs
    1p extra education
    1p extra infrastructure.

  14. Mr. Bell, did you vote for Jeremy Corbyn at the last election? I think we should take a lesson or two from the French, get rid of some stupid, wasteful Treasury rules and concentrate on being more efficient. Stop these crazy salami slices to the budget , bring back a proper industrial plan (similar to what Lord Drayson proposed to Tony Blair) and charge other departments when our Armed Forces have to be used for civilian purposes, but most of all, create a different mindset in politician’s brains that defence is important to a lot of people and therefore worth votes. Bring back Rory Stewart and make him Defence Secretary. We can live in hope.

  15. On a slightly positive note, part of the ASTOR capability will partly replaced by protector uav’s. And the new P8’s will have a overland capability. Still a great loss though.

  16. Very disappointing and for the life of me I really don’t know what is wrong with the MOD.

    I think the budget is ok – I think the management of it is farcical

    Maybe its time for a one off payment to be made to write off past mistakes and then a clear industrial strategy put in place that commits to a drumbeat at a given annual price point, if BAE then doesn’t deliver – nationalise.

    The MOD needs strong management and unfortunately it does not seem to have it.

    SDSR2015 states the UK spends $61.8bn pa in 2015 – The USMC spends less than $30bn and field more personnel than the UKAF’s, has more fighters, helicopters and tanks and is better equipped at the individual soldier level. These accounts are audited.

    So if the USMC can have 180k people and all that equipment why can’t the UK.

    I know this is not like for like – but remember there is still another $30bn pa to spend on those things that they USMC budget does not cover (i.e. a Navy Nuclear deterrent and some Air Assets). another $30bn is still an awful lot of money.

    So really where is the UK spending $61bn dollars every year as I cannot see it.

    poor poor management

  17. I agree it is a scandal what the MOD manages to purchase for every pound spent, look at what the Russians purchase with a far smaller budget. If you added up every cancelled major project from blue streak and TSR2 through to Nimrod and later there is a very pronounced lack of fiscal diligence shown.

    • Defence has to be the responsibility of real statesmen and women with the experience and foresight to understand our needs. Unfortunately which we appear to be severely devoid of such people of this stature and have been for about half a century or so.
      I have come to the conclusion that defence is too important to be left to politicians they are too transitory 100% short term and budget driven so what happened to the prime responsibility of government being ‘The Defence of The Realm’?
      Give a real voice to the chiefs of staff.

  18. This week the Development Secretary was delighted to announce that she’d handed £60m to Eithiopia (enough to buy a batch of Harpoon IIs) and £110m to Somalia, words fail me.

  19. […] Earlier reports had suggested that fleet will go from 5 to 4 as the RAF are forced to cut one of the aircraft, a unique capability in Europe, in order to save money. While the future fleet size isn’t made clear this announcement would appear to dismiss claims that a push to extend the service of the aircraft to 2021 was unsuccessful, we reported on this at the time here. […]


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