The technologically advanced Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) system has been accepted into service with the RAF, on the Sentinel R1 aircraft, it was announced today, Monday 1 December 2008.
Operating at altitudes in excess of 40,000 feet (12,200 meters), for over nine hours at a time, the system is capable of detecting and recognizing moving, static and fixed targets at stand-off range. This information is transmitted in near real-time to commanders on the ground, enabling rapid tactical planning and efficient cueing of other sensor and attack systems such as Reaper and GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System).
The new radar system will be operated by the RAF's Number 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire providing a new all-weather intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capability.
Minister for Defense Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies, said:
"The new ASTOR system onboard our Sentinel R1 aircraft is a unique and technologically advanced capability that will deliver exceptional battlefield surveillance. The ASTOR radar will link up with other intelligence-gathering equipment providing commanders with a complete picture of the ground allowing them to make immediate decisions on operations.
"ASTOR is already providing a number of UK companies the opportunity to participate in a high-technology programme ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of defense technology. I am delighted to welcome this vital asset into service with the RAF and Army."
Defense Equipment and Support ASTOR Project Team Leader, Bill Chrispin, said:
"Accepting ASTOR into service with the RAF represents the initial stage in the roll-out of this entirely new capability to our Armed Forces. Only through a strong working relationship between the MOD and the prime contractor, Raytheon Systems Limited, has ASTOR matured into what we see today. 5 (AC) Squadron, re-formed on 1 April 2004, has risen to the doctrinal and training challenges of this dynamic platform, and is now well set to face the future challenges."
The ASTOR system is designed to communicate with a wide range of other systems and networks and is therefore at the heart of the UK's Network Enabled Capability (NEC). NEC facilitates the build-up of a complete picture of the operating environment on land aiding decision-making by commanders on the ground, in the air and at sea.
As part of the ongoing operational development process ASTOR will undertake an overseas deployment prior to achieving Full Operating Capability about two years from now.
The fully operational ASTOR system will comprise five modified Bombardier Global Express business jets (dubbed Sentinel R1) crewed by two aircrew and at least three radar operators, and eight ground stations.
Wing Commander Harry Kemsley, Officer Commanding RAF 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron said:
"ASTOR is a unique, cutting-edge, ground surveillance capability for the UK Armed Forces. It will provide battlefield commanders with critical, all-weather wide area, near real-time intelligence, which will enhance the effectiveness of Land operations. Training of squadron personnel and development of the system has progressed exceedingly well over the last 18 months and the squadron is now in a position to make a positive contribution to current operations in the very near future."
James Klein, Vice President of Raytheon's Mission Systems Integration business, said:
"We are confident that ASTOR will be a critical asset, providing the actionable intelligence necessary to help protect British and coalition forces worldwide. Raytheon is excited to see ASTOR enter service as a valuable asset for the UK. This world-class capability is the product of great teamwork with the MOD, RAF 5 (AC) Squadron, and our industry partners." http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/EquipmentAndLogistics/NewRafRadarWillHelpBattlefieldCommanders.htm
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