A Sentinel R1 aircraft based at RAF Waddington, was today welcomed back following the latest successful mission supporting the coalition in the fight against Islamic State in the Middle East.
The 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron aircraft landed today after eight weeks away where the crew have been supporting coalition operations by supplying information that ensures the strikes carried out by the RAF and other coalition aircraft are accurate.
Wing Commander Chris Melville the officer commanding 5 Squadron said:
“This has been a highly successful deployment by the Squadron and we continue to contribute to the success of the mission.
It is always difficult to recognise the work of my Squadron due to the sensitive nature of it, but today is an opportunity to publicly congratulate them on a job well done.”
The RAF said in a statement:
“The Sentinel crew used the aircraft’s powerful radar to identify and track numerous targets over great distances, passing the information in near real time to friendly forces.
The information gathered was also used by intelligence specialists to conduct in-depth forensic analysis of the data to generate intelligence products that are passed to commanders and decision makers enabling them to plan future operations.
Today’s returning Sentinel aircraft has been deployed in support of operations for two months and during that time was airborne for 235 hours, or the equivalent of nearly 10 days, with the typical sortie lasting for ten hours. During this time the aircraft flew approximately 4200 miles.”
Reports had suggested that fleet will go from 5 aircraft to 4 as the RAF are forced to cut one of the aircraft, this has now been confirmed.
The fate of this aircraft type has, once again, changed.
A written question asked by Wayne David, MP for Caerphilly read:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, when he plans for the number of Sentinel surveillance aircraft in service to be reduced.”
The question was answered by Harriett Baldwin, Under Secretary of State for Defence Procurement:
“The original service date for the Sentinel fleet has been extended from 2018 to 2021. This will be achieved by careful fleet management practices, including the removal of one Sentinel from front line service with effect from 1 April 2017.”
Sentinel is a unique capability in Europe but one of the aircraft is being cut in order to save money. Earlier concerns centred around plans that the fleet would leave service entirely next year but a push to extend the service of the aircraft to 2021 seems to have been successful.