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The Raytheon Sentinel is under development as the RAF's ASTOR (Airborne STand-Off Radar) aircraft. It will be a joint asset with the British Army, providing battlefield and ground surveillance in a similar role to the American E-8 JSTARS aircraft. ASTOR will be totally interoperable with allied systems such as JSTARS and the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system.
The first flight of a modified Bombardier Global Express was in August 2001 which validated the modifications required for the ASTOR system. The first production Sentinel R1 made its 4.4 hour maiden flight on May 26 2004. The initial operating capability will be achieved in 2005.
The original contracts call for a total of five aircraft, eight mobile ground stations (six on wheeled all terrain vehicles and two in air transportable containers), and extensive training facilities at the main RAF station.
The aircraft will normally fly at 15,000 m (40,000 ft) to ensure a high resolution view of a large battlefield area. It will be crewed by a pilot, a co-pilot and three image analysts. Mission endurance should be about 9 hours. While the image analysts can analyse the images on board the aircraft it is expected that, unlike the JSTARS, the actual battle management will occur on the ground.