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The Royal Air Force Shadow intelligence aircraft fleet is to receive a major upgrade.

At DSEI 2017, it was announced that the MoD had agreed the first phase of an incremental upgrade of the platform with Raytheon.

FlightGlobal reports that Roland Howell, Raytheon’s director of airborne ISR said it “will make the first incremental upgrade to the Shadow R1, and then explore new delivery solutions for the next variant, the Mk 2.”

They also reported that Air Cdre Ian Gale, the Ministry of Defence’s senior responsible officer for ISTAR platforms said he expects the Shadow R2 to be “a connected aeroplane with the best sensors available at the time”.

The Shadow R1 uses an airborne mission management system integrated into a modified Beechcraft King Air 350CER aircraft. The Shadow R1s currently in service are part of the Royal Air Force’s 14 Sqn.

According to a press release:

“Designed, developed, ground tested and flight tested by Raytheon UK’s Airborne Solutions’ division, the UK MOD officially commended Raytheon’s Team, recognising its role, ‘in delivering, upgrading and sustaining the Shadow R1 fleet and enabling the Shadow Force to consistently deliver operational effect in multiple arenas for United Kingdom Forces.’

And it added that the team’s “strong project management, high dedication, innovation and agility have ensured operational needs have been met.”

3 COMMENTS

    • Agree. ISTAR assets should all be retained and improved.
      With Sentinel, Shadow, Air Seeker, Reaper, P8, Defender the UK has a capable group of systems.
      Need to keep Sentinel ideally.
      No mention of the 7th and 8th Shadow to be added though?

  1. If P-8 is supposed to be taking over the role of Sentinel in the medium term, as I think is the idea, I hope that more than 9 are purchased. Actually, in the long term, I wouldn’t be surprised to see drones of various types fulfilling the roles that Sentinel and Shadow fill now. Further, I don’t see why drones couldn’t be used in the future to act in the AWACS/AEW role for the carriers. The Merlin is limited by endurance and altitude, and the need to provide space and support systems for crew. I could see a drone, transmitting data to the carrier, acting in the Merlin role. It would ease the endurance and altitude problems of the Merlin. Yes, it would need to be launched and recovered from a QE carrier, but I don’t think that problem is beyond solution. Actually, thinking further ahead, perhaps the AWACS wouldn’t even have to be part of the carrier’s air-group. The Zephyr can fly extremely high for weeks/months. Maybe a future development could be launched from the UK or friendly airbase and track the carrier, never having to even come close to it, let alone be launched or recovered. Of course, these solutions pose their own problems, but surely point to the potential of drones in the next few decades for providing AWACS/AEW/ISTOR.

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