Electronic Weapons: RAF Flies Eyes To Afghanistan


October 6,2008:  After a decade of development, Britain is putting into service its Sentinel R1 ASTOR (Airborne Stand-Off Radar). It's similar to the three decade old U.S. E-8 JSTARS. But instead of mounting the radar and computers in a four engine jet, the British used a 44 ton Canadian Bombadier Global Express twin engine business jet. The highly automated Sentinel has two pilots, and three people in the back running the surveillance equipment. Sentinel operates at 45-50,000 feet and can track vehicles, or even people, on the ground up to 160 kilometers away. Vehicles can be tracked at twice that range. Sorties average 12-14 hours. The first Sentinel is being sent to Afghanistan, where it will get right to work supporting British, and NATO, troops. The U.S. has been using its E-8 ground radar aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan with great success. Britain is building five Sentinel R1 aircraft, and all will be in service over the next few years.

Sentinel uses a U.S. made Raytheon ASARS-2 radar. This is a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) system that can focus on a smaller area and provide photo quality images. Sentinel also has a large array of electronic warfare equipment and counter-missile systems. But in Afghanistan it will mainly be using its radar, and its satellite and ground communications links to send images to the troops below, who can then run down known or suspected hostiles.


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