Sentinel R1


The aircraft, Sentinel R1, is a modified version of the Global Express, which is an executive business jet manufactured by Bombardier.


  • Engines: 2 BMW/Rolls Royce 710 engines
  • Thrust: 14,750lbs each
  • Max speed: 0.89Mach
  • Length: 99.5ft
  • Max altitude: 49,000ft
  • Span: 93.6ft
  • Aircrew: 5

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Who uses the Sentinel R1

5 (Army Co-Operation) Squadron
RAF Waddington

Aircraft details

The aircraft, Sentinel R1, is a modified version of the Global Express, which is an executive business jet manufactured by Bombardier. Wingspan of 93' 6", length of 99' 5". Powered by 2 BMW/ Rolls Royce 710 engines. Each can produce 14,750 lbs thrust at ISA +20. Max Operating altitude is 49,000 ft but usually flies at endurance at 40,000 ft. Max speed is M.89.


2 RAF Pilots. 1 RAF Mission Commander. 2 Image Analysts (either RAF or Army Intelligence Corps).

Sentinel System

After the 1990 Gulf War, it was identified by the allies that Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance had played a key role in the success of this operation. In particular, the use of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) had proved invaluable in the tracking and prosecution of enemy ground forces. This galvanised the UK to acquire its own capability and in 1993 the requirement was endorsed by the MOD.

The solution chosen by the MOD was the Airborne STand-Off Radar (ASTOR) to be known as the Sentinel system. The Sentinel system consists of Air, Land and Support segments. The Air segment consists of 5 converted Bombardier Global Express aircraft, named the Sentinel R1, fitted with a Dual Mode Radar (DMR). This radar is similar to the U2 ASARS radar, and collects SAR imagery and GMTI data. The Land segment consists of 2 transportable Operational Level Ground Stations (OLGS) and 6 mobile Tactical Ground Stations (TGS). These ground stations (GS) are connected to the aircraft via data links and provide Near Real Time (NRT) intelligence to commanders and their staffs at multiple levels of command.

5(Army Co-operation) Sqn operates the Sentinel system and is based at RAF Waddington. It is a joint sqn, commanded by an RAF Wing Commander. With over 150 RAF and 100 Army service personnel, 5(AC) Sqn is the largest flying sqn in the RAF. The aircraft are manned by two RAF Pilots and a Mission Commander, whilst the intelligence gathered by the aircraft is analysed by 2 on-board Image Analysts (IAs) for NRT effect. The on-board IAs are a mix of RAF and British Army Intelligence Corps SNCOs. The GS provide a longer term analytical capability to answer more in-depth questions and Requests for Information (RFIs). The GS are staffed by IAs from the Intelligence Corps and RAF, and supported by R Signals and REME technicians, both at RAF Waddington and the deployed operating base.

Sentinel was originally intended for conventional war-fighting operations, to track armoured formations and conduct strategic reconnaissance tasks. However, the capability has been shown to be flexible and has been adapted for use in a number of different roles by 5(Army Cooperation) Sqn. The Sentinel’s value has been proven in support of counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan, and in 2011 the capability provided vital Intelligence to enable coalition air assets to protect civilians from pro-Gaddafi Forces under UN Security Council Resolution 1973. Sentinel is deployed on an enduring basis, providing International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) with operational and tactical intelligence which is having a tangible effect on the success of coalition operations in Afghanistan.

As part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) of 2010 it was announced that the SAR and GMTI capability Sentinel provides would be retained by the UK until the UK’s involvement in Op HERRICK had ceased. 5(AC) Sqn will continue to operate the Sentinel system until a suitable platform has been developed onto which this valuable capability can be transferred. Until that point, 5(AC) Sqn and Sentinel will remain at the forefront of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) for the RAF in support of operations in Afghanistan.

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