Raytheon in discussions with three potential Sentinel R1 customers

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Raytheon is seeking export customers for its Sentinel R1 wide-area surveillance aircraft, for which it is in talks with three potential operators.

Five of the Bombardier Global Express-derived type are currently in operation with the Royal Air Force, but the company is now targeting customers in Asia, Middle East and the Far East.

While the company could not disclose who the possible customers are, it claims that Sentinel is strongly required domestically in all three, particularly for border control.

South Korea has been modernising its inventory, with acquisitions such as the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle. It is understood that India also showed an interest in Sentinel some years ago, and a contested border with Pakistan would suggest that such a capability could still be required.

The RAF is operating Sentinel in support of its Operation Shader commitment against Islamic State militants in Iraq, but the longevity of its operation remains to be decided.

“For Sentinel, certainly the pull from theatre is to keep it there,” Wg Cdr David Kane, officer commanding the RAF’s 5 Sqn, says.

Sentinel’s out-of-service date was extended from 2015 to 2018, prime minister David Cameron announced in 2014, but Raytheon believes that the aircraft could be operated to 2025.

Decisions on a life extension are expected to be made in the UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which is due to be released in November.

“We’ve worked on the budget, and within the current budget we can move out to 2025,” Roland Howell, Raytheon’s head of airborne solutions said at the DSEI exhibition in London on 17 September.

The SDSR is also expected to shed light on the UK’s potential maritime patrol aircraft requirement, with the Boeing P-8 Poseidon being the aircraft that is expected to be selected.

Howell says that the P-8 is not expected to have a wide area surveillance capability like Sentinel’s Airborne Stand-off Radar can provide until 2022, so the type is still relevant until then.

One aircraft is undergoing full strip-down maintenance at the moment, which is expected to take 12 months, while another is also undergoing routine maintenance. There is a planned upgrade schedule for all five, but Kane notes that the demand for the aircraft has added strain to the fleet.

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