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UK MoD -RAF's latest eye in the Afghan sky is a success

UK MoD : 11 February, 2009  (Special Report)
The RAF's latest 'eye in the sky' has recently returned from its successful trials in Afghanistan. The ASTOR system (Airborne Stand-Off Radar) on the Sentinel R1 aircraft was used to gather vital information for forces in the fight against the Taleban.
These aircraft can detect and recognise moving, static and fixed targets on the ground and are capable of operating for over nine hours at a time. The information gathered is transmitted to ground stations to enable rapid tactical planning and the efficient cueing of assets.

ASTOR has been successfully used by Number 5 (AC) Squadron based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

During a visit to RAF Waddington to see the new system, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support Quentin Davies said:

'This hugely sophisticated system has already demonstrated what it can do to support operations in Afghanistan. In a trial of the system last year, the Sentinel aircraft and its associated ground stations proved they can feed information about the movements of enemy forces to Ground Commanders in near real time.

'The Airborne Stand Off Radar system is a key element of the modern network-enabled battlefield, through which our forces can learn about the movement of enemy forces and react to prevent those threats to our troops.'

Group Captain Harry Kemsley, Officer Commanding 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron:

'5 (AC) Squadron personnel and supporting elements continue to build on the lessons identified from their recent operational experiences in order to further develop the capability of ASTOR. The utility of the system across both military and humanitarian spectrums is significant and wide ranging, and we are working closely with potential customers to ensure that our training is relevant and targeted to their requirements.'

Major Will Tosh, Intelligence Corps, Detachment Commander said:

'The ASTOR system was closely embedded within 3 Commando Brigade and provided a near real-time, wide area search capability on operations for the first time. It worked in unison with troops on the ground delivering timely intelligence and situational awareness to those on the front line.'

In the culmination of the 954 million contract, Raytheon Systems Ltd has now delivered the last in a batch of five aircraft to Number 5 (AC) Squadron. The contract also includes eight mobile ground stations. Raytheon will continue to deliver support services to the system over the next 10 years.

MOD Defence Equipment and Support ASTOR team leader Bill Chrispin said:

'Delivery of the final aircraft is a huge milestone for us and for our contractor. Now our work will concentrate on achieving the full operational capability of the system at the earliest opportunity.'
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