The E-3 Sentry, the fleet of which were retired from Royal Air Force service last year, declared an emergency whilst in flight.

The incident took place around 11:45am, when the aircraft declared an emergency by ‘squawking 7700’, more about that below.

A Twitter used heard the aircraft, callsign SOLEX01, transmit:

“PAN PAN PAN. Auxillary system loss. Dumping fuel in North Sea soon, then heading to Waddington.”

What is the significance of “Squawking 7700”?

Captain Hoke is a Boeing 757/767 captain for a package express airline and also runs the website AeroSavvy, he had this to say.

“Declaring an emergency means the crew determines they have an ‘urgency’ or ‘distress’ situation. “Urgency” means the crew is concerned about the safety of the flight and needs timely (but not necessarily immediate) assistance. A ‘distress’ condition means that the flight is in serious and/or imminent danger and requires immediate assistance”.

Retired but still flying?

The most likely reason is to retain skills amongst the crew in preparation for the types replacement, the E-7 Wedgetail, coming into service.

The RAF’s E-3 Sentry airborne early warning aircraft fleet was retired in September with their replacement not due until 2023. The UK will rely on the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force to plug the gap.

British E-3D Sentry fleet retires

What is the status of Wedgetail?

The UK recently cut its order for five E-7 aircraft to three. The Defence Command Paper released last year, titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age‘, states:

“We will retire the E 3D Sentry in 2021, as part of the transition to the more modern and more capable fleet of three E 7A Wedgetail in 2023. The E 7A will transform our UK Airborne Early Warning and Control capability and the UK’s contribution to NATO. The nine P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will help to secure our seas.

The introduction into service of the 16 long range Protector remotely piloted systems will be the backbone of persistent, multi spectral surveillance, with the ability to strike and act decisively against our potential adversaries around the globe.”

You can read more about that here.

First UK E-7 Wedgetail ready for conversion work

You can also read more about the status of the first E-7 for the Royal Air Force by clicking here or clicking the link above.


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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Harry B
Harry B (@guest_607860)
2 years ago

hope the crew are all safe. But I did see it on flight radar today and was wondering why it was both red and flying in the first place.

Farouk (@guest_607861)
2 years ago

What is the significance of “Squawking 7700”?
When I was based in Assi and Belize the RAF often used to divert to cushty places (Rio/Florida) after declaring an emergency . The worse one for me, was when my goes homey bird from Belize was delayed with a stop over in the states on route to us. Boy did i get ribbed by the lads in the mess that evening

Last edited 2 years ago by Farouk
Challenger (@guest_607862)
2 years ago

Good that despite the capability gap they are at least using the Sentry fleet to keep skills fresh.

Harry Nelson
Harry Nelson (@guest_607877)
2 years ago

So it’s retired, still flying/maintained in flight readiness so any cost savings negligible?? Is only one flying or more?? Just wondering??

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke (@guest_607879)
2 years ago
Reply to  Harry Nelson

Or has it been resurrected due to the increased tensions around Ukraine?

The E7 crews are embedded on exchange.

Cj (@guest_607959)
2 years ago

Absolutely not

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke (@guest_608076)
2 years ago
Reply to  Cj

Absolutely not that the crews are embedded on exchange


Absolutely not that a flyable working aircraft had been resurrected due to the current crisis?

Fedaykin (@guest_607880)
2 years ago
Reply to  Harry Nelson

Whilst they are finalising sale of the airframes in a flyable condition this is necessary.

The USN wants one to act as a training airframe for their E-6B and Chile looks to be considering using the E-3D as a replacement for their 707 Phalcon AEW.

Pompey Dave
Pompey Dave (@guest_607881)
2 years ago

Or was it up because of events in Ukraine?

Bob (@guest_607883)
2 years ago
Reply to  Pompey Dave

It has flown several times since “retirement”.

Heidfirst (@guest_607895)
2 years ago
Reply to  Bob

more than several times, it has been in almost constant use.

Bob (@guest_607898)
2 years ago
Reply to  Heidfirst

Just saying it’s flight was probably not related to the events in Ukraine.

Clueless Observer
Clueless Observer (@guest_607913)
2 years ago

I thought we had sold one to the US, just assumed this was a delivery flight?

Cj (@guest_607958)
2 years ago

One indeed was sold to the USA

Heidfirst (@guest_608048)
2 years ago

The one sold to the US was already in storage in the US at Lake Charles.

Jonathan (@guest_607977)
2 years ago

So it’s a sort of semi retirement.