Bombardier Raytheon Sentinel Airborne Battlefield and Ground Surveillance Aircraft
The Bombardier Raytheon Sentinel platforms has provided the RAF and NATO with priceless eyes-in-the-skies over Afghanistan, Libya and Mali.
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The Bombardier Raytheon Sentinel currently (2013) serves the Royal Air Force (RAF) as its primary Airborne Battlefield and Ground Surveillance Aircraft. The intra-theater platform is utilized for real-time data collection, intelligence gathering, unarmed maritime patrol and battlefield surveillance. For the moment, the RAF Sentinel fleet maintains an active status though only five examples have been procured in all. The Sentinel is the British equivalent to the USAF E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System.
The Sentinel was born from the Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) program of the British Army to which the quick coalition success in the 1991 Persian Gulf War furthered defined the need for a dedicated requirement. The war proved the value of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) as well as Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) when tracking and engaging ground-based foes. Such services were largely supplied by the United States which led the UK to pursue its own stand-alone solution. Prior to the war in 1984, a Britten-Norman BN-2T Islander was outfitted with mission equipment though a dedicated, purpose-built platform was still sought, funding then finally allotted to similarly modify a Bombardier (Canada) Global Express business jet by way of Raytheon equipment. The MoD secured the program - to take on the same of "Sentinel" - in 1993. The end-product would encompass a land and air combination of assets to appropriately fulfill the battlefield role.
The original civilian-minded Global Express business jet program was launched on December 20th, 1993 and went airborne for the first time on October 13th, 1996. The first foreign customer became Malaysia in July of 1999.