Royal Air Force Disbands Sentinel R1 ASTOR Squadron

The disbandment of V (AC) Squadron follows the withdrawal of the Sentinel R1 aircraft from RAF service. The squadron has been operating the Sentinel R1 as part of the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Force based at RAF Waddington. The Squadron was first formed in 1913 and has a rich history that includes service during both World Wars, and the Gulf War. The squadron has operated aircraft such as the Avro 504, Lightning F6 and Tornado F3 and has been awarded many Battle Honours from all over the World.

V(AC) Squadron Sentinel R1 crew and aircraft before leaving on the last sortie.
The V (Army Cooperation) Squadron Sentinel R1 crew and aircraft before leaving on the last sortie.

The Raytheon Sentinel is an airborne battlefield and ground surveillance aircraft formerly operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF). While based on the Bombardier Global Express ultra long-range business jet, the prime contractor for the Sentinel was the American defence firm Raytheon, which supplied most of the mission systems and performed the integration work. Originally known as the ASTOR (Airborne STand-Off Radar) programme, procurement of the type started during 1999 .The Sentinel is interoperable with other allied systems such as JSTARS and the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system.

The Sentinel R1 aircraft have flown circa 32,300 hours conducting approximately 4,870 sorties during its service life.

The Sentinel R1 was manufactured by Raytheon UK. The aircraft is a modified Bombardier Global Express powered by two Rolls-Royce BR700 turbofan engines. The cockpit features a centrally positioned pull-down screen capable of displaying a moving map, along with Link 16 datalink information and defensive aids subsystem (DASS) data. The DASS comprises a towed radar decoy, missile approach warning system and chaff and flare dispensers and can be operated in automatic, semi-automatic or manual mode. The Sentinel would be flown at altitudes in excess of 40,000 feet (12,000 m) to ensure a high resolution view of a large battlefield area.

The Royal Air Force have officially disbanded V (Army Cooperation) Squadron.

In recent years since the Squadron began operating the Sentinel R1, the Squadron has been committed to multiple operations including Op Shader in the Middle East and Op Ellamy in Libya. Squadron aircraft have also been used to directly assist Civilian Authorities in the UK delivering information to decision makers across government. As the Squadron disbands, the military personnel will be posted to new roles throughout the RAF, however the memories and achievements of the Squadron will live on. Sentinels have been deployed overseas on multiple occasions, such as in support of the British Army in Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali.