Following a boost of £110 million, the Royal Air Force’s Shadow R1 surveillance aircraft fleet will be increased and upgraded with the latest defensive technology. Awarded to Raytheon UK, the contract will see the current fleet of six aircraft increased to eight, and the integration of the latest UK Sovereign Defensive Aids Systems, ensuring this vital capability continues to provide battle-winning intelligence gathering for years to come. Supporting 150 highly-skilled jobs at Broughton, including specialist aerospace skills and apprentices, and roles at Raytheon’s sites at RAF Waddington and Harlow, the contract will also sustain around 350 further jobs across the UK supply chain.
The investment for an upgraded Shadow fleet forms part of the vision laid out in the Defence Command Paper, which is ensuring that the Armed Forces are prepared for new and emerging threats. This ambition is underpinned by a £24 billion increase in defence spending over next four years. It is expected the first upgraded aircraft will be delivered to the RAF in June 2023, with delivery of the eighth Shadow R Mk2 aircraft before the end of 2025. This contract is the result of collaborative working between DE&S and industry and ensures the RAF has the world-class capability needed to protect the UK’s interests against ever-evolving threats.
The Shadow’s high definition electro-optical and electronic sensors complements other platforms and capabilities, helping analysts prepare comprehensive intelligence products. Satellite communications links enable information to be downloaded and off-boarded during a mission and the aircraft is also fitted with a defensive aids suite. Originally a Beechcraft product, subsequently marketed as Beech and then Hawker Beechcraft under Raytheon ownership, and now regarded as a Beechcraft product under Textron Aviation, the King Air has most recently been developed into the King Air 350. The UK MOD to commission an initial four Shadow R1 aircraft, based on the King Air 350CER, under an Urgent Operational Requirement.
Based at RAF Waddington and flown by 14 Squadron, Shadow R1 forms a key part of the RAF’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) force by gathering intelligence via its high-definition electro-optical and electronic sensors. Once the data is gathered, satellite communication links enable the information to be assessed while the aircraft is airborne during a mission. To protect the aircraft from possible attack, the aircraft will be fitted with an improved state-of-the-art Defensive Aids System. As part of the contract, the latest Defensive Aids System will be installed across the fleet of 8 aircraft, increasing its ability to defend itself and operate in unfriendly airspace.