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Royal Air Force’s R1 Sentinel bows out of service with final operational flight

R1 Sentinel
Photo: Royal Air Force

The Royal Air Force has retired the Sentinel R1 battlefield surveillance and intelligence aircraft with a final operational flight from RAF Waddington.

The Sentinel R1 aircraft of V (Army Cooperation) Squadron have flown circa 32,300 hours conducting approximately 4,870 sorties during their 14 years of service.

The withdrawal from service was first announced as part of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review and the fleet of aircraft is now on sale. In addition to the Sentinel, the service is also selling two E-3D Sentry airborne early warning aircraft.

The Sentinel aircraft was commissioned through US company Raytheon to provide an airborne stand-off radar (ASTOR) system and first saw service during operation Herrick (an umbrella term for all British operations in the War in Afghanistan) in 2008. Five aircraft were acquired and V (AC) Squadron was reformed to operate the aircraft.

The squadron has been committed since then to numerous operations around the world, notably Op Shader and Op Telic, whilst closer to home they provided support to the civil authorities during the UK’s flood emergency in southern England in 2014.

On the squadron’s recent return from Op SHADER, the UK Commander of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key said: “Right to the end of its commission, V(AC) Squadron has been a constant among my deployed force elements. It is a record to be proud of.”

Photo: Royal Air Force

“It has been an absolute privilege to have commanded V (AC) Squadron. It is a fantastic squadron, with wonderful people, that has delivered exceptional results on multiple operations across the globe. Pivotal to that success has been the fantastic effort and support from across the whole of the Sentinel enterprise,” Wing Commander Dominic “Dutch’ Holland, officer commanding V (AC) Squadron.