A ROYAL Air Force Boeing E-3D Sentry has returned to its home base at RAF Waddington following its final mission on Operation Shader, bringing to a close 30 years of operational service.
The Sentry aircraft flew its final operational sortie on the 30 July over Iraq as part of the counter-Daesh Op Shader. The aircraft from No.8 Squadron had been deployed to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and was the latest and last deployment since 2015. The aircraft returned to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire on 4 August.
Describing the aircraft’s lengthy service, the Commander of the Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Force, Air Commodore Nicholas Hay said:
The E-3D Sentry, entered RAF service in 1991 as part of the RAF’s ISTAR fleet and was immediately deployed to supported Air Operations during the first Gulf War. Since then the Sentry aircraft have been involved in UK operations ever since including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the broader Middle East and the Caribbean, together with a NATO role. The Sentry is also known as the Airborne Warning and Control System or AWACS.
This recent deployment has seen operational sorties being flown on Op Shader, and also sorties to support Operation Fortis, the deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Carrier Strike Group.
Describing its most recent missions, the Officer Commanding 8 Sqn, Wing Commander Victoria Williams said:
The E-3D Sentry will be retired later this year and will be replaced in 2023 by a fleet of three Boeing E-7 Wedgetails that will operate from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. During the period between retirement and the Wedgetail becoming operational, the ISTAR requirements will be covered by a combination of other aircraft and E-3s from our NATO partners.
Reflecting on the return of the E-3D Sentry to RAF Waddington Group Captain Robert O’Dell, the Deputy Head Capability at the ISTAR Force HQ said: