Sentinel R1

Who flies the Sentinel R1

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

  1. 5 (Army Co-Operation) Squadron
    RAF Waddington

The Sentinel R1 is the RAF’s only long-range wide area battlefield surveillance asset, providing critical intelligence and target tracking information to British and Coalition forces.


  • Engines: 2 BMW/Rolls Royce 710 engines
  • Thrust: 14,750lbs each
  • Max speed: 530kts
  • Length: 30.30m
  • Max altitude: 40,000ft
  • Span: 28.49m
  • Aircrew: 5


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

Using the aircraft’s powerful radar the mission crew can identify and track numerous targets over great distances, passing the information in near real time to friendly forces. The mission crew is backed up by a team of intelligence specialists who conduct in-depth forensic analysis of data collected by the aircraft, generating intelligence products that are passed to commanders and decision makers enabling them to plan future operations. The on-board Intelligence Analysts 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 Intelligence Analysts from the Intelligence Corps and RAF, and supported by R Signals and REME technicians, both at RAF Waddington and the deployed operating base.

The Sentinel R1, which entered service in December 2008, is the most advanced long-range, airborne-surveillance system of its kind in the world.

The aircraft has been deployed operationally in Afghanistan since 2009 and provided vital intelligence during NATO operations in Libya in 2011, and French operations in Mali, in 2013.

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.

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.

Related Jobs

Guide and understand the intelligence gathered.

Text size: