The British MoD has officially declared the innovative ASTOR (airborne stand-off radar) system in service onboard the RAF’s Sentinel R1 aircraft.

The ASTOR System, which was developed under a £860m contract by Raytheon Systems, provides new all-weather intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capability to assist commanders on the battlefield.

ASTOR is also 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).

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies said that the advanced technology will deliver exceptional surveillance capabilities. “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,” Davies said.

The fully operational ASTOR system will comprise five modified Bombardier Global Express business jets (dubbed Sentinel R1) operated by the RAF’s Number 5 Squadron and crewed by two air, at least three radar operators, and eight ground stations.

The Sentinel 1 aircraft allow the system to operate at altitudes in excess of 40,000ft, for over nine hours at a time.

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The aircraft is capable of detecting and recognising 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).

Officer Commanding RAF 5 Squadron, Wing Commander, Harry Kemsley said that ASTOR’s cutting-edge, unique technology will provide critical information.

“Training of personnel and development of the System has progressed exceedingly well over the last 18 months and the new radar system is now in a position to make a positive contribution to current operations in the very near future,” Kemsley said.

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.

By Daniel Garrun.