Eye in the sky

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

Sensinel aicraft flying

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. (Copyright: Crown Copyright)

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 national defence.

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 in near-real time.

Sentinel OGL on tarmac

A Gulfstream G550 equipped with advanced surveillance and communications technology. Using the aircraft’s radar, the mission crew can identify and track numerous targets over great distances, passing the information in near real time to friendly forces. (Copyright: Crown Copyright)

“In today’s world, there is a fusion of both asymmetric and sophisticated threats, like commercial drones and space robotics," said Barbara Borgonovi, vice president, Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance Systems for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “With diverse ISR solutions, countries can quickly make more accurate decisions to keep the public safe.” 

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 UK with capabilities similar to the U.S. Air Force’s joint surveillance target attack radar system, JSTARS.

“As a former mission crew commander on the Sentinel, I’ve operated and worked closely with the aircraft for over six years,” said Phil Hoole, now a Business Development Exec within Raytheon UK’s Airborne ISR business line. “A five-person crew can achieve what larger platforms cannot and the quality of the information that comes from the radar remains unmatched.”

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.

Raytheon UK Engineer works on Sentinel

Raytheon's state-of-the-art, global airborne ISR facility at Broughton opened in March 2017 as part of a joint £1 million investment by Raytheon UK and the Welsh Government.

“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 in 2017. “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 36,000 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.

“Our customers need systems that can be reconfigured for different types of missions,” said Roland Howell, Raytheon’s managing director of Airborne ISR. “It also helps that our system is easy to operate and maintain.”

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.

“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 former Minister of Defence Stuart Andrew during the same visit to Broughton.

Engineer working on jet turbine

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

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: 03/09/2020