RAF forms new ISTAR air wing
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RAF forms new ISTAR air wing

By Harry Lye 19 May 2021 (Last Updated May 19th, 2021 11:27)

On Monday, the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) stood up a new Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Air Wing based at RAF Waddington.

RAF forms new ISTAR air wing
Artist’s impression of the Protector RPAS. Image: MOD/ Crown Copyright.

Under the command of Group Captain Chris Melville, the Wing will comprise the flying Squadrons, Air Support Wing, Air Engineering Wing, Number 1 Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing and the ISTAR Operational Conversion Unit.

Melvill said: “I am hugely excited to assume the role of Commander Air Wing for the Waddington based ISTAR assets. The job will be challenging but enormously satisfying and continues the RAF’s transition towards a new operating model.

“Throughout its history, the RAF has continually evolved and embraced new ways of working, and this is another step on that journey as we head towards the next-generation RAF.”

The RAF said Waddington would continue to operate as normal ‘enabling’ the new ISTAR force and supporting ‘operational outputs’ of the Air and Space Warfare centre, 8 Protection Wing. Future projects for Waddington include implementing the Protector Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) and integration of the Red Arrows.

RAF Waddington station commander Group Captain Kilvington said: “The restructure of command at RAF Waddington recognises the size, scope and complexity of Station activity and will provide the opportunity to focus on the full breadth of our endeavours.

“I look forward to working together with Commander Air Wing to develop our people, infrastructure and engagement, whilst sustaining exceptional operational output and paving the way for future capabilities.”

This February, the RAF confirmed that its new Protector aircraft would operate from RAF Waddington this summer. The pre-production Protector RPAS, called SkyGuardian, is due to arrive at the station in July.

The UK has so far ordered its first three Protector RPAS aircraft and ground control stations. The contract includes the option for a further 13 aircraft and four more ground control stations. The order for the additional systems is expected this year.

Protector is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) RPAS and will replace the RAF’s in-service Reaper aircraft.