The UK is selling off its entire fleet of five Sentinel surveillance aircraft (without replacement) and two of its remaining Sentry airborne early warning aircraft.
The Sentry aircraft, part of a larger fleet that originally numbered 6, are being sold off as the fleet draws down to 3 aircraft before it is replaced by the E-7 Wedgetail aircraft over the coming decade.
Jeremy Quin, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, recently said in response to a question regarding the size of the Sentry fleet:
“The Sentry has provided excellent service and intelligence capability to both NATO and the UK since its first operational mission in 1991. The drawdown of Sentry is ongoing. Since 2017 the fleet has reduced from six airframes to three. As is normal in fleet transition, the numbers of aircraft and crews needed to support frontline operations naturally reduce approaching the formal out of service date. It will continue to deliver this operational capability and the ability to undertake operational tasking all the way to its out of service date.”
While there is no replacement for Sentinel, the news that the aircraft is being sold off (after many reprieves) isn’t surprising to many.
There’s also a possibility that other aircraft could pick up some of the work.
The Ministry of Defence advise that the aircraft being sold off are “not for reuse”.
According to the Ministry of Defence in a potential sales notice:
“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.
The aircraft available are as follows:
- 5 x Sentinel Aircraft & a significant number of associated inventory spares and Ground Support Equipment.
- 2 x Sentry aircraft and associated inventory spares
The aircraft’s may be held at different UK locations including Waddington and it is anticipated that all work will be required to be undertaken at site.
DESA’s preference would be to sell the aircraft and or inventory on mass but partial options may also be considered. The issue of this notice is not a commitment by the Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (acting through the Defence Equipment Sales Authority of the UK Ministry of Defence) (the “Authority”) to commit to a sale as a result of this notice and this process may be discontinued at any time should another sale option be forthcoming.”
What does Sentry do?
The US designed E-3D Sentry AEW.Mk 1 is an airborne early warning (AEW) and command and control aircraft in British service, but what does that mean?
The Sentry monitors airspace to provide threat detection of adversary aircraft and situational awareness on friendly assets.
Information gathered by the Northrop Grumman APY-2 radar is processed by the mission crew and disseminated via a variety of data links and communication systems. Sentry also has the capability to detect ships, relaying information to maritime aircraft or allied vessels for further investigation. Its electronic support measures equipment enables the E-3D to gather emissions from other radar systems and emitters, enhancing the crew’s understanding of the environment in which it is operating.
What does 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”, provides long-range, wide-area battlefield surveillance, delivering intelligence and target tracking information to British forces.
The aircraft has been operationally deployed in support of operations in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali, and was recently deployed in support of British and Coalition operations in Iraq and Syria as well as surveillance operations near the Russian border.