About the Shadow R1

ROLE

Through a combination of sensors, Shadow adds a comprehensive intelligence gathering capability to ISTAR Force.  Its output is particularly valuable to ground commanders. 

CAPABILITY

The Shadow’s electro-optical and electronic capabilities complement those of the Sentinel R.Mk 1, its data combining with that gathered by Sentinel and other platforms to help analysts prepare comprehensive intelligence product.  Satellite communications links enable information download during a mission and the aircraft is also fitted with a comprehensive defensive aids suite.

The Shadow in level flight.
Shadow incorporates a comprehensive mission suite.
Image by: Cpl Steve Buckley

TYPE HISTORY

The US has been using variants of the ubiquitous King Air twin-turboprop business aircraft in military roles since the early 1960s, subsequently creating and fielding a family of Guardrail reconnaissance machines based on the King Air 200.

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.  More capable than earlier versions, the King Air 350 was offered as a special missions platform from the outset and spawned the new generation MC-12 ISR platform ordered for the US Air Force in July 2008 against an urgent need to improve intelligence gathering in Afghanistan.

A similar requirement led the RAF to commission an initial four Shadow R.Mk 1 aircraft, based on the King Air 350CER, under an urgent operational requirement. Delivered to V(AC) Sqn in 2009, the Shadow features an underfuselage electro-optical sensor turret, a variety of integrated sensors and extensive communications capability, managed from operator consoles in the cabin.

Number V(AC) Sqn’s Shadow flight became 14 Sqn in 2011, after the former Tornado unit disbanded at RAF Lossiemouth under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.  A fifth aircraft, plus a dedicated trainer were added to the fleet and the aircraft’s exceptional performance has seen it identified as a key asset for the future.

The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review called for the trainer to receive a roll-on/roll-off mission suite that might enable its use in operational and training roles, plus the addition of two new airframes.  The first of these three is likely to be in service from 2019 and the expanded fleet should remain operational until at least 2030.

Header image by MoD

Based at

Flying with

Specifications

Beechcraft Shadow R.Mk 1:

  • Powerplant: two 850shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-47A turboprop engines
  • Length: 43ft 9¼in (13.34m)
  • Height: 15ft (4.57m)
  • Wingspan: 54ft 6in (16.61m)
  • Wing area: 310sqft (28.80m2)
  • Maximum cruising speed: 294kt (544km/h)
  • Maximum altitude: 35,000ft