UK defence issues and the odd container or two

RAF Sentinel Quick Look

With the announcement of a single RAF Sentinel R Mk 1 (Number 5 (Army Cooperation) Squad­ron) being deployed to support the French operation in Mali I thought a quick look at what it is would useful.

 RAF Sentinel Quick Look

The Sentinel R Mk1 has a fairly long history.

The Airborne Stand odd Radar (ASTOR) is very simply a well connected ground surveillance system that uses an advanced radar sensor to gather data that is analysed and sent to friendly forces for action.

Jane’s has a good description;

ASTOR is a ground surveillance system designed to provide information regarding the deployment and movement of enemy forces. It uses MTI and SAR technology to obtain high-resolution imagery of static features and to identify and track moving vehicles. It is based on a modified Global Express airframe carrying the radar, datalinks and DAS, which will transmit near-realtime imagery to a network of distributed ground stations. The ground stations will be deployed with the front line forces and will display, analyse and interpret the imagery

In the 1980’s the MoD formulated a requirement designed to track moving Warsaw Pact Panzers on their way to the English Channel, this was called the Corps Airborne Stand-Off Radar (CASTOR) programme. CASTOR was a medium altitude aircraft equipped with a Moving Target Indicator (MTI)/Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) system, tracking Russian panzers streaming through Germany on their way to the Channel.

This programme got as far as a technology demonstration of the CASTOR I on a Britten-Norman Islander aircraft with a Ferranti radar before being abandoned because basically, it wasn’t good enough with a the usual dash of inter service politics and budgetary concerns, although the basic concept was well proven.

CASTOR RAF Sentinel Quick Look
CASTOR

CAPTOR was designed to provide advanced warning of Warsaw Pact vehicles prior to them crossing into Western Europe, think of it as an AWACS for tanks.

From the ashes of CAPTOR came ASTOR

The Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) programme picked up where CASTOR left off continuing development using a modified Thorn EMI Searchwater radar. It also blended this with technology from the Raytheon’s HISAR radar, the very same as used on the Global Hawk UAV and U2 ASARS-2 improvement programme.

Through a technology demonstration the programme the system matured, the demonstration phase followed and despite several false starts Raytheon System won the contract in 1999.

You can read the full history at the Jane’s link above, pretty painful!

In Service was declared in late 2008.

raf waddington air show press day 2006 RAF Sentinel Quick Look
Sentinel R1

To say it was a troubled project with a protracted development history would be an understatement of Nimrod proportion but any less than other major systems, arguably not.

Spyflight has a great read up on ASTOR, click here to read.

Sentinel is operated by 5 (Army Cooperation Squadron), comprising roughly 160 RAF and 140 Army personnel, from RAF Waddington, the ISTAR hub. There are also a small number of Royal Navy personnel but the majority of imagery analysis work is carried out equally by RAF and Army personnel.

The radar produces a near photo quality image in SAR mode and can track many moving targets in GMTI mode.

ASTOR Image Sample 640x400 RAF Sentinel Quick Look
ASTOR Image Sample
ASTOR Image Sample1 640x400 RAF Sentinel Quick Look
ASTOR Image Sample

In addition to the aircraft, Sentinel also has an advanced training systema number of ground stations (6 ‘tactical’ and 2 ‘operational level’) and a support segment.

Both the TGS and OLGS are C130 transportable and modular, mounted in 20ft containers and carried on 6×6 Pinzgaur 718k Improved Medium Mobility vehicles with HGI trailer mounted generators

ASTOR Tactical Ground Station RAF Sentinel Quick Look
ASTOR Tactical Ground Station

It can operate in two modes, on and off tether (real time or store and analyse later)

ASTOR System Links 640x269 RAF Sentinel Quick Look
ASTOR System Links

The cost of the complete programme was just under £1.1billion with the 5 air vehicles production cost at £76m each and the 8 ground systems having a production cost of 15m each (MoD figures)

What did we get for £1.1billion plus the cost of CASTOR and all the time spent on development, especially interesting as we are about to chuck it into the round filing cabinet?

By all accounts it is a very effective system, able to track targets, create high resolution imagery and carry out pattern/scene analysis.

The Bombardier Global Express XRS, the donor aircraft for Sentinel, has prodigious range and endurance, relatively high speed and altitude. These qualities were deemed essential for the synthetic aperture radar but I have read there is a performance penalty due to the weight of the systems.

Additional weight is possible but will require recertification and a mid life upgrade would have possibly seen an in flight refuelling probe fitted and a replacement of some of the communications, computing and display equipment which would have freed up weight. One of the potential upgrade options was fitting the Goodrich DB-110 optical sensor as fitted into the RAF’s highly regarded RAPTOR pods into the read of the canoe fairing in place of a data link antenna. This was actually part of the original project, the mission software even takes imagery direct from the sensor and the ground stations are designed to handle it.

There is room for growth but with the 2010 SDSR decision to withdraw it, none is now planned.

Without knowing the performance, which of course only a few people will, it’s hard to make any judgements but most commentators and publicly available information seems to point to it being ‘a bit special’

Further details of the system are here and here.

The 2010 SDSR announced the withdrawal of Sentinel

Question

Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans his Department has made for the replacement of the capability currently provided by Sentinel R1 aircraft after 2015.

Answer

Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)

The strategic defence and security review announced the decision to delete the Sentinel capability in 2015. The Ministry of Defence is developing plans to address the capability gap and expect to reach conclusions in the autumn. The plans are likely to involve the use of Watchkeeper, an unmanned air vehicle, and future systems such as the Crowsnest programme from 2016, and through the development of Scavenger, an unmanned air system.

And

Question

Madeleine Moon (Bridgend, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which aircraft have been identified as potential replacements for the Sentinel R1; and if he will make a statement.

Answer

Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)

There is currently no plan to replace the Sentinel R1. The withdrawal of this capability will be mitigated by utilising a number of other platforms and assets including unmanned air systems such as Watchkeeper.

The official withdrawal point was defined as ‘when it is no longer required to support operations in Afghanistan.

But since the SDSR there have been numerous reports of efforts ongoing to reverse the decision.

Sentinel was deployed on Operation ELLAMY during which it flew about 50 sorties, contributing hugely to the NATO targeting and surveillance effort.

Reportedly, the Sentinels output was the only one used for daily briefings to the NATO commander.

RAF Sentinel Patrol over Libya

In the Defence Select Committee report on Operations in Libya it quoted Air Marshal Sir Christopher Harper, UK Military Representative to NATO.

It [Sentinel] played  a key and pivotal role in the operation. There is no question about that. This is a highly capable ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] platform that is able to detect movement on the ground with extraordinary high fidelity and provide that information in real time. Discussion with the air commander would indicate that he relied extremely heavily on its capability and on similar capabilities provided by other platforms. So, without that capability I do not think that we would have seen the rapid success that has been achieved.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton was also quoted;

It [Sentinel] was fundamental. We were able to link up and securely pass information from the Sentinel aircraft providing the ground-mapping capability through the AWACS in E3 aeroplanes, through secure satellite comms, through data links to the Typhoon and from Typhoon to Tornado and onwards. All that was done. Without that combat ISTAR [...] the ability to do something  about what you find on the ground at the same time—this would  undoubtedly have been a more complex operation. The technical capability is there, and it has proven itself to be combat ready and combat capable.

If the cost of the system as a whole could be reduced then it is entirely feasible that the MoD will reconsider the withdrawal decision but it is also a basic requirement that no future planned equipment could duplicate the ASTOR capability.

In order to see how this could be done it is important to realise that it is not an aircraft but a system and in that system are people.

Reduce the number of people to deliver the capability and the system becomes cheaper.

If it could be operated with a reduced ground element, as recent operational use seems to point to, a large cost element could be removed. This is a reaction to a change in doctrine and the ability to transmit back to the UK via satellite and then if necessary, onward, or back to the operational theatre over DII.

Its a different way of using the system that better reflects current thinking.

This ‘different way’ was revealed post ELLAMY when it became clear that a newly introduced portable integrated mission planner had been used for mission planning and post flight imagery analysis. Raytheon had self funded the addition of satellite and networking functionality to the new ISO container mounted mission planners including a range of COTS computing, network and display equipment. One of our commenters also stated that one of the data links had been replaced in favour of better satellite communications equipment.

This would seem to point to the TGS being somewhat surplus to requirements as the likelihood of them being forward deployed into the field in tactical conditions overtaken by technology.

Eliminate the TGS and you can perhaps eliminate a lot of cost of the system as a whole.

The ongoing support costs, bandwidth requirements and support cost of the aircraft themselves would also have to be considered as part of a re think of the SDSR decision, nothing is certain and the people costs I alluded to might not be able to be reduced that much anyway. Reducing or eliminating the TGS would not be without impacts, it would be a compromise of course.

So the deployment to Africa in support of Operation Serval looks very much like it will be another  argument in favour of retention, albeit in a slightly different deployment model.

If SDSR 2015 does confirm retention it might allow the RAPTOR sensor to be fitted, resulting in a very long range, high endurance ISTAR collection and analysis system with a range of ‘cross cueable’ sensors. The ability to link back to the UK and other in theatre receiving stations is crucial for ongoing development.

The ground station infrastructure, systems, training and equipment could also possible be integrated with Watchkeeper and other collection platforms to create an air deployable multi technology hub.

A bit of forward and joined up thinking could result in an improved capability and reduced cost.

Heresy!

 

 

 

UPDATE

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

40 Comments

  1. H_K

    Very glad to see this kit being put to good use in Mali.

    As recent conflicts show, almost anyone can provide the boots on the ground or bomb trucks in the air. Leave that to the Dutch, Danes, Poles and other Europeans (god forbid, even the Germans too!), as well as to our African and Middle Eastern allies of the day.

    But someone’s got to bring along the real party tricks – carriers, tankers, SSNs, cruise missiles, drones, and satellite imagery… and Astor. And that ‘someone’ is, by necessity, either the US, UK or France. I’d take those capabilities over 500 German Leopards any day.

    P.S. I wonder what ‘services’ the French will have to trade in return. I know I’ve been rambling on about those surplus Atlantique airframes… MPA, anyone? ;-)

  2. Martin

    A very nice article TD. The Sentinel aircraft is fast proving to be the most useful aircraft we operate. No one else in Europe has such a capability and even the USA is struggling to maintain its JSTARS inthe faace of declining budgets and th age of the 707 derived airframe. Sentinel really should be the last aircraft up for the chop which I guess in the reason that the RAF offered it up along with MRA4 thinking that no one could possibly want rid of it.

    Having such aircraft just goes to show how far ahead we are of other European nations especially France which may have allot of cool sounding toys like a CVN but lacks the basic capabilities for expeditionary warfare like AAR, ISTAR and strategic air lift. LEts hope that SDSR 2015 recognises thes facts and further focuses the MOD on providing these operational enablers.

    Does anyone know if the UK offers to provide Sentinal as its contribution to the NATO ground surveillance capability has been taken up?

  3. Observer

    H_K, I’ll take 500 Leopards instead :)

    But you are right, as a force multiplier it is a good idea once basic force commitments are met of course. In cases like these, the basic forces are provided by other countries, so not a problem. Just don’t try to go in with these and only an infantry platoon. It’s a force multiplier, not a cureall. And like the term suggests, the more deployable forces you have to take advantage of the information, the greater the effect.

  4. Martin

    @ Observer – Thats true bt we are much more likely to be working with an alley that has infantry and even armour to deploy. Only the USA can provide such enablers as ASTOR and relying on them to come to our aid every time is not a good long term solution. If we can’t get allies to put up ground forces its a good indication that we should not be there in the first instance. We must realise that almost any operation we commit to will be about providing other countries with security for the greater good. Well the British public might be willing to lend aerial and naval assets t such operations they are unlikely to be willing to allow long term ground deployments again.

  5. Simon

    I didn’t really know about Sentinel until recent events…

    It looks really, really useful.

    Also, the very fact that it is being used more than expected seems to point at the fact that perhaps E2 would have been a more useful platform than E3?

    This is what we do best… small… efficient… useful. Like Harrier, Invincible, Jaguar, Sea King. We seem to be in this “bigger is better” mentality at the mo. (F35, CVF, Tornado, Merlin).

  6. Mark

    The Astor system is unique in Europe and the gx is an extremely capable airframe why it was offered up to chop is anyone’s guess. It has been back to broughton for an upgrade which has come close to doing what is outlined in the last few paragraphs by TD eg communications enhanced space freed up. With the raptor pod unlikely to be transferred to typhoon an obvious solution could be to transfer that capability to astor.

    This gives a view of its usefulness over Libya http://www.fast-air.co.uk/op-ellamy/

    “Providing the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) function to the campaign was the Sentinel R1. The figures for availability of the aircraft make for impressive reading. A single airframe flew 48 missions in a 53 day period, including 78 hours in a 97 hour window and also three missions in the same day meaning it was only on the ground for 2 hours and 35 minutes that day. A total of 200 missions and over 2,200 hours were flown by the fleet.”
    Sqn Ldr Brian Wilson spoke of his time as a Sentinel captain on Op ELLAMY:
    “We would normally be doing somewhere between 7 to 10 hours on task obviously with a transit in before that and a transit after that. We were routinely doing post 12 hour missions, so long old days.”

    Now we have very kindly modified an cleared a military version of the gx the USAF is now using the same platform in a number of roles.

  7. Martin

    I wonder if call me Dave or anyone on the coalition front bench realised what it was when they signed off on its scrapping.

  8. Pete Arundel

    As Mark said; “The Astor system is unique in Europe and the gx is an extremely capable airframe why it was offered up to chop is anyone’s guess.”

    Maybe because it isn’t fast, pointy and fighty? Just not glamorous enough for the boys in light blue.

    Now, to quote Janes; “transmit near-realtime imagery to a network of distributed ground stations. The ground stations will be deployed with the front line forces and will display, analyse and interpret the imagery”

    Who operates the ground stations? Do the RAF put men on the ground or does the Army get trained to do it?

  9. IXION

    Peter Arundal

    ‘because it isn’t fast, pointy and fighty?’ Yep along with some fast and pointy stuff like the:-

    1)Jaguar:- most used aircraft in the RAF because of its modest operating costs, it got sent to do all sorts of stuff instead of Tornado.

    2) Harrier:- Bit like the above but with the added downside of involving navy in its opperation.

    3) Nimrod:- whilst itself may have been a clusterf*ck programm, it gave the chance to ditch MPA function for good from the RAF.

    But Keep Tornado. As old a technological base as any of the above. Who’s replacement F35 is in the pipeline anyway, and whose ‘Deep pentration’* role is increasingly redundant….

    The fighter mafia know how to never waste a crisis.

    * Ooh missus. Am i judt being suspicious, but was that title picked to sound sexy and aggressive. Mind you the navy do that with ‘strike carrier’, and ‘Marine Commando’, utterly superfluous just makes it all sound so much more aggressive and dare one say it more capable and powerful than it actually is?…

  10. Peter Elliott

    Presumably that is one of the things our special forces out there are currently getting involved with…

  11. Fedaykin

    My conversations at Waddo last year with Sentinel crew revealed that they had discarded with the whole ground station nonsense anyway and discretely removed its associated datalink and replaced it with improved satcom and datalink gear that can talk to other platforms like AWACS reducing weight and freeing up space. My guess for the reason they did that was because the ground stations were being used in Afghanistan to support the Sea King ASaC 7 which were being used for ground surveillance and are compatible with them. If the ASaC 7 were using the ground stations then to keep Sentinel running they would of had to do the work. They can can communicate direct with Northwood or any other appropriately datalinked or satcommed up system in theatre! One thing that came to mind about how they were able to cheaply add these capabilities to Sentinel. When Canberra PR9 was being retired it had some highly sophisticated datalink and satcom gear that allowed it send data through to other platforms in the area like AWACs, the US and Northwood. I wonder if the gear to enable that was pulled out of storage and installed on Sentinel. That way it would of been off budget using already purchased equipment.

    Considering Sentinel even with its weight penalty can do ten hour plus missions the main restriction appears to be crew endurance. Nevertheless installing a probe would probably help mission flexibility.

  12. JMCSMS

    Pete,

    What would you have offered then? Which of our five operational Tornado and three operational Typhoon Squadrons would you chop and why? The front line RAF has been cut to the bone, there’s no fat to trim.

    You might have missed the Jags, Harrier and two Squadrons of Ground attack Tornadoes which have gone, not to mention the early demise of the ADV. So fast, pointy, fighty things get the chop as well.

    AFAIK the ground stations are shared manning. If there are less of them the personnel will be redeployed to their parent organisation I’d imagine.

  13. Pete Arundel

    @JMCSMS – I was merely offering an explaination for why Sentinel might have been offered up to the people who were claiming that it was one of the most useful capabilities that the RAF have.

    Personally, I think Sentinel would be better off as an Army asset but that’ll never happen.

  14. Mark

    Ixion

    Without completely dragging this thread off topic. Don’t think jaguar deployed to more operations than any other fastjet type. It was not a particularly good aircraft it shows what happens if you try to develop a advanced trainer with a strike function you get a aircraft which is to complicated and expensive to be a trainer and not capable enough to be a strike plane. Yes the pilots loved the aircraft and it was useful in the 80s when precision was not required. It had a poor wing with high wing loading which bleed energy quickly this made it less than effective in cas. CAS usually requires relatively tight turns and now a days either a reasonably gd targeting pod and or recon capability which can down link to rover and a variety of weapons. If you have an wing that bleeds energy like jaguar you usually make up for that with engine thrust to push you thru. Que jaguars other flaw poor engine performance especially hot and high with excess power to operate those power hungry surveillance systems and data links. Add to this the lack of wing stations which for a theatre entry aircraft config would require the standard DAS system and at least one fuel tank prob 2 left just two weapons stations one of which would have required carriage of a some form of targeting/recon pod. Jaguar was great low level in a straight line 1979s cold war warfare not for modern warfare of any shape. What should of happened way back in either 1990 or 98 was conversion of harrier to the us marine standard the most capable cheapest cas light fighter aircraft available to support tonka but rn was hell bent of shar and the raf had no interest in sticking a radar/gun pod on gr7.

    There really ain’t no more fast jets to cut bar not buying f35. I think sentinel was offered up because mod had gone uav mad they were wonderful new white hope to cover all the expensive istar requirements and the army we’re like a dog with two d**ks over watchkeeper. Several years on and the cold hard reality of uavs warts and all has now hit home. Included in the 1b procurement figure td quoted for Astor was a thru life sustainment contract to about 2015 so I guess they saw that as a natural end point. I think that has now changed.

  15. Topman

    I would think it was ‘offered up’ because it was an option that had to be looked at. It’s not important whether those producing those reports/options think it good or bad, ultimately it’s up to the government to decide.
    No-one’s going to forget about it because you don’t include it as an option, ‘yeah we didn’t add xyz because we really like it…’
    Now I know we are talking of humans so it’s not totally black and white, but neither is it always some sort of conspiracy so often beloved by some on here.

  16. IXION

    MARK/TOPMAN

    Mark- I am not saying jag was a particularly good aircraft, but it was OK at what it did, and good enough to do most jobs, jags spent a lot of time, enforcing no fly zones etc.

    Topman

    One of the problems is conspiracy theories. It’s not about groups of light blue types meeting in hollowed out volcanoes with secret handshakes etc. It’s about mindset.

    If the middle commissioned ranks are Tornado men, wedded to the deep strike philosophy, and the snr ranks spent their flying time in Tornados, then when ‘what are we going to cut’? gets asked then I’ll bet the mortgage money it wont be Tornados.

    Its’ a bit like all the decisions about world cup fixtures being made by the English Football league.

    You just know Germany will draw France, followed by Brazil, Spain etc whilst England draws, Norway, Tonga etc.

    it’s not a conspiracy just if you ask a room full of Tornado men what to cut, you don’t have to be a genius to guess whats is absolutely last on the list.

    All the other armed forces are the same.

  17. Gloomy Northern Boy

    Perhaps our best hope of understanding if there is indeed a fast jet “mafia” at work will be the attitude of the forthcoming CAS – who I believe flew Chinooks, presumably with soldiers in them.

    I have no idea, but am very deeply distressed at any possibility that air support in Iraq or Afghanistan was inadequate because of a fixation on some possible future Battle of Britain…as I believe many people who would consider all the contributors to this site a bit odd would be. The ones called “taxpayers” who turn out to watch young men and women come home under the Union Flag.

    Please tell me it is not, and could not possibly be true…

  18. Topman

    No it’s about starting off with the answer and working back to the question, as seen on here.

    In every case I can think of that people have put up such ideas about ‘mafias’ and their pet consiracy theories and I’ve personal knowledge of the topic in discussion. Their ‘thoughts’ have been, frankly, little short of babbling nonsense.

  19. Mark

    Ixion

    Jaguar was ok but not gd enough for most jobs and not useful today. Yes it provided a recon capability to northern watch which it alternated with harrier same in Bosnia, tornado maintained southern watch thru out and provided options in Bosnia.

  20. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Topman – Thanks; I will in future disregard all such.
    @ IXION – any thoughts on how to resolve this? Quite an important issue in respect of TDs SDSR Thread…

  21. Phil

    I did once argue on here that Jag should have stayed and Harrier binned. But the arguments that Jaguar couldn’t cut it in modern times is very pursuasive.

    Now I think we should have binned Jaguar AND Harrier GR3/5 and bought more Tornado’s back in the mid 80s.

  22. Mike W

    TD

    A really fascinating article, TD. I remember the CASTOR I on the Britten-Norman Islander aircraft with a Ferranti radar very well, and saw one flying down at Middle Wallop, oh, it must be well over twenty years ago. I don’t know whether I am imagining things, but wasn’t a version of the CASTOR radar trialled on the old Canberra aircraft as well? There seemed to be a bit of a tug between the Army and the RAF to get the system.

  23. JMCSMS

    Pete,

    The future is purple ;-) I think that Sentinel was offered because they knew it wouldn’t go until after Herrick and hoped that events would change things.

  24. Challenger

    @JMCSMS

    Yeah, it’s very easy to make a vague commitment to scrap something when you know you’ve got five years in-between to try and find a way of not going through with it.

    As critical as I often am of the RAF over the other two services I think SDSR 2010 is a good example of everyone facing some very tough choices and nobody coming out unscathed.

  25. John Hartley

    Me too, I think we should keep Sentinel in service (& add EO). If we do, it makes sense to add a pair of Global 5000 biz jets for 32 sqn. Some will say that just lets the pols swan about like billionaires, but if we don’t have G5000 we will end up sending Voyager A330. After a decade or so, it will have been cheaper to buy the Global 5000.

  26. IXION

    GNB

    I have no Idea, how you stop the ‘Mafias’.

    Every business has them, the Forces are seemingly the same. Serving soldiers talk about the Para mafia, and contributes to this site have commented about the charmed life the Guards leave.

    They are all highly professional, all trying to do the best as they see it for the defence of the realm. But can be wrong.

    Re the suggesting of Sentinel being cut as they thought it could be saved later. So instead of making principled recommendations and proposals based on an honest appreciation of the needs of the country, politics and scheming, take over.

    Its like the deliberate falsification of cost of new equipement etc.

  27. Phil

    The Para and Guards mafias.

    To my mind there is a different explanation for these. It is not that the Paras or Guards have a mafia. What actually happens is that the Para’s tend to attract some of the brightest, fittest and most aggressive young Officers who tend to do very well in the senior ranks and hold some exotic posts. There’s no Para mafia (they are as hated as they are loved) but there is a preponderance of Para trained, SF experienced senior officers at senior levels because they tended to be the best.

    As for the Guards, these are often joined by the quite well to do, the sort who are well connected or are a connection themselves. They will thus have influence, not because they are Guards but because of who they are.

    You could eliminate both and what will happen is that one line regiment will get a reputation for being a cut above the rest and will start to attract most of the finest young Officers, for example The Rifles. And another regiment will become the destination of choice for those of society. You’d be back to square one but with different names.

    It isn’t the The Reg or the Guards that give these people influence per se. It is just how organisations like Armies work. Every country has a similar demographic and no doubt, similar “mafias”.

  28. ArmChairCivvy

    TD, great link to Spyflight!

    What a story: a system trialled in the decade leading to the Berlin Wall coming down went operational (only just) in time for the ramp-up in A-stan
    – despite the key components being in service elsewhere or based on COTS components
    – as they say, though, the end is well – all is well

  29. IXION

    Phil

    Perhaps Mafia is the wrong word; like I said I really don’t see it as organised, indeed all of those concerned might be genuinely horrified if they were accused of any bias.

    Its just that if a room full of paras and Guards senior officers are asked what are we cutting?

    It won’t be maroon or furry hats.

    It’s why we have HMS Belfast in London. The choice of which cruiser to park there was between Belfast and the much more historically involved Southampton, who most people thought would be the saved ship.

    The Admiral who made the decision however was a former commander of Belfast…….

  30. Alex

    Important lesson: get a good modern aircraft, especially one that gets built in numbers. One thing that stands out is that these aircraft are available. And Bombardier will be making them for a long while yet. It’s like a good pair of boots.

    Also, don’t make decisions because this or that platform is a plastic biz-jet, not a proper war machine. Or because it’s full of computers. The airlines love their A320s because they give great serviceability and on-time operations, they bit Airbus’s hand off for the A320-NEO.

    It’s like the difference between a classic Land Rover and a FJ-75 model Land Cruiser; one is butch as hell and British and you can fix it with a spanner if you’re Rudolf Diesel in person, the other…well, you’ll not need to fix it until you kill it.

  31. East_Anglian

    The RAPTOR EO addition would make this a very powerful asset indeed. It would give the UK a “poor mans” spy satellite capability at a fraction of the cost.

    I still think that these would make an excellent Maritime surveillance platform

  32. DefencePhotography

    What an incredible history, bet the original requirements team never thought it would end up over Mali. I photographed it on Ex Joint Warrior where it supported the French – so train in Scotland, fight in Mali!!

  33. Pegasus

    1) “Sentinel was deployed on Operation ELLAMY during which it flew about 50 sorties, amassing in excess of 2,000 hours and contributing to the NATO targeting and surveillance effort”

    REALLY? 40-hour missions? With no AAR? Please apply a sanity check before copying out some guff from an MoD flak.

    2) It was chopped in SDSR because it was perceived to commit the “crime” of operating heavily in support of other services. Same reason Nimrod had negligible RAF support.

    3) There is clear potential for Sentinel to perform some of the broad area maritime reconnaissance role performed by Nimrod. The radar is the right bandwidth, and the output could be similar, once tweaked, to that of the old Victor SR2. If achieved (yes, a big “if”), that would start to close the MPA capability gap for no addition of platforms.

    Net, Sentinel is invaluable: your article underplays how good it is, and how much support it has gained, even in the last 12 months.

  34. Think Defence

    Welcome to TD Pegasus, fair one on the hours but the numbers were lifted, as you say, uncritically from the MoD.

    Will ammend but I wonder if the hours number included transit flights?

    Anway, yes, agree that it is a fantastic system but I think its sin was in being single role in a multi role world, hence why I think for a modest outlay we could insert the DB-110 and get a pretty decent uplift in capability and flexibility, a PR9 replacement to boot!

  35. Simon

    TD,

    Re: single-role in a multi-role world… It’s still a great platform for MPA so there’s nothing much wrong with it’s procurement per se. Not making the most out of it would be the real sin.

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