Surveillance aircraft based at RAF Waddington have notched up a collective total of 20,000 flying hours protecting British and other ISAF forces in Afghanistan.
The high-tech, state-of-the-art Sentinel R1 aircraft of No 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron and Shadow R1 aircraft of 14 Squadron have each clocked up 10,000 hours on Operation HERRICK.
While based in Britain aircraft from both units have been permanently patrolling the skies above Afghanistan since 2009 gathering vital intelligence on insurgent activities.
RAF Waddington Station Commander Group Captain Al Gillespie said:
“The search capabilities of Sentinel and Shadow have provided UK and coalition partners with an unprecedented insight into the unique operating environment of Afghanistan. The ability to search vast areas and provide real-time information to others has led to more efficient and effective application of other military capabilities such as remotely-piloted air vehicles, coalition helicopter-borne forces, light-armed reconnaissance vehicles and combat aircraft.
“Its superb capabilities, with its ground-mapping radar and ability to detect personnel and vehicle movements from many miles away, have led to some ground forces describing it as a ‘go/no-go’ asset for their operations – meaning that without Sentinel they would not continue.”
On 14 August 2012 Sentinel hit the milestone of 10,000 operational hours in support of British and coalition troops, with more than half of these hours clocked up since May 2011.
Wing Commander Al Marshall, Officer Commanding No 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron, said:
“The achievement of 10,000 flying hours since the recent introduction of the Sentinel capability highlights the significant commitment by, and excellent teamwork between, squadron personnel, industry and our other supporting organisations.
“The rate of effort, particularly when Sentinel was simultaneously deployed to both Afghan and Libyan theatres, has been exceptional, and has delivered a superb contribution to Defence and reinforced the overall importance of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.”
Shadow came into operational service in July 2009 and operated as a flight within No 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron. Its impact and success was immediate and as more aircraft were delivered so the operational commitments grew.
To cope with the extra commitment the Shadow Flight became 14 Squadron on 14 October 2011 and a fifth aircraft was added in December 2011. Operations continue apace and on 19 July 2012 the squadron marked a significant achievement by flying its 10,000th operational hour.
Wing Commander Rich Moir, Officer Commanding 14 Squadron, said
“Marking the 10,000th operational hour for the Shadow R1 is very important as it is a significant milestone, and stands as testament to the hard work, dedication and determination of all those associated with the success of this unique platform.
“Since it was first introduced into service it has had an outstanding serviceability rate and delivered consistently in the skies over Afghanistan. It is an achievement that all associated with the project should be very proud of.”
RAF Waddington is the UK hub of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities supporting national and NATO operations.