Eye in the sky

Sophisticated tech delivers the big picture, in the air and on the ground


Raytheon’s Sentinel system equips five converted Bombardier Global Express aircraft with a dual mode radar, two transportable ground stations and six mobile tactical ground stations.

They begin in plainclothes: Civilian aircraft built for business or pleasure – the Beechcraft King Air 350, Bombardier Global Express and Gulfstream G550.

Then Raytheon goes to work, transforming these civilian aircraft into ultra-sophisticated surveillance planes, aligning futuristic airborne technologies to ground-based systems to deliver unmatched awareness. The right sensors, processing, mission system, platform, ground elements, training and sustainment create an integrated system that sees, identifies and delivers critical information for many missions, including humanitarian crises.

The Raytheon-transformed civilian aircraft are now airborne systems equipped with exportable sensor modes — synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indicator, electro-optical and infrared — along with airborne signals intelligence and open architecture mission systems. This results in high-resolution imagery and data correlation capability in near-real time.

Raytheon is equipping turboprop and business jet platforms

Raytheon is equipping turboprop and business jet platforms, including the Gulfstream G550, pictured, with advanced surveillance and communications technology.

The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force operates a fleet of Raytheon-equipped Sentinels. These sophisticated military surveillance aircraft are modified Bombardier Global Express business jets. They equip the U.K. with capabilities similar to the U. S. Air Force’s joint surveillance target attack radar system, JSTARS.

“I’ve flown the Sentinel,” said Phil Hoole, a six-year Sentinel mission crew commander, now Raytheon U.K. business development capture manager. “It is small; a crew of five can do what larger airborne surveillance platforms cannot; and it features the world’s most sophisticated, dual-mode radar.”

The Sentinel airborne stand-off radar, or ASTOR, includes synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indicator sensors. Long-endurance, all-weather intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance at high altitudes and long stand-off ranges support various missions. Sentinel has flown nearly 30,000 hours in support of contemporary operations.

“The Sentinel aircraft has been at the core of what the air force has been delivering. It is a unique capability for the RAF and the nation in counter-terrorism,” said Squadron Leader Graham Edwards, ISTAR Force Headquarters at RAF Waddington, during a visit to Raytheon UK’s facility in Broughton.  “Working with Raytheon is very easy; it is a collaborative relationship which allows us to focus on delivering Sentinel as a capability to make sure we’ve got the most aircraft available for the defence of the UK.”

Since RAF V (AC) Squadron flew the first operational Sentinel R.Mk 1 mission in November 2008, Sentinel has been on constant deployment, supporting the UK armed forces and international coalitions.

The aircraft recently achieved over 30,000 operational flying hours supporting deployments ranging from international coalition peacekeeping support to civil missions, such as mapping flooding in the UK in 2014, to aid relief efforts.

Nose of Gulf Stream Aircraft
Raytheon Broughton's new global airborne ISR facility, part of a joint £1 million investment by Raytheon UK and the Welsh Government, opened March 30.

 “The Sentinel has proved its enormous worth time and time again,” said Defence Minister Stuart Andrew at that same Broughton visit. “The fact it has now spent over 30,000 hours on operations not only demonstrates how the RAF is working around the clock to put it to use on behalf of the country, but it is a testament to its home in North Wales.”

Hundreds of highly skilled aircraft engineers and systems integrators build and deliver these advanced aircraft and radar to the Ministry of Defence, at both the Broughton hub in North Wales and RAF Waddington, home of RAF V (AC) Squadron. Since 2016, Raytheon’s workforce has grown by 44 percent to include a new wave of engineering apprentices and graduates. 

“The workers in Broughton should be extremely proud of the fantastic work they are doing to ensure this ‘eye-in-the-sky’ continues to collect crucial intelligence, so our forces can keep us safe,” said Andrew.

This document does not contain technology or Technical Data controlled under either the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations or the U.S. Export Administration Regulations. E17-P66H.

Published On: 06/18/2017
Last Updated: 09/20/2018