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The Boeing E-3D Sentry returns to its home base at RAF Waddington after its last mission on Operation Shader, ending 30 years of operational service.

The Sentry aircraft made its last operational sortie on July 30 over Iraq as part of Op Shader against Daesh and returned to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire on Wednesday August 4.

The No.8 Squadron’s aircraft had been deployed to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and was the last and last deployment since 2015.


The E-3D Sentry will be phased out 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 entry into service of the Wedgetail, ISTAR requirements will be met by a combination of other aircraft and E-3s from NATO partners.

The Air Officer Commanding Group 1, Vice Air Marshal -Marshall Al Marshall, toast the crew of ZH101 after their return flight from Op SHADER. | Photo: SAC Shauna Martin RAF / MOD

Describing the aircraft’s long service, the Commander of the Intelligence Surveillance Targeting and Reconnaissance Force (ISTAR) Air Commodore Nicholas Hay said: “As this moment is undoubtedly the moment for all those who allowed the numbers 8, 23 54 and 56 in the air to look back with immense pride and satisfaction.

“We have continued to learn a lot that will ensure that other ISTAR platforms, including the new Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning Aircraft, will be able to maintain a significant operational advantage in the future. “

NATO Commander, 8th Squadron Commander, Station Commander, Air Officer Commanding Group 1, Deputy Force Commander ISTAR, Deputy Force Commander NATO AEW & C and crew of ZH101. | Photo: SAC Amelia Turnbull RAF

The E-3D Sentry, entered service with the RAF in 1991 as part of the RAF ISTAR fleet and was immediately deployed to support air operations during the First Gulf War.

Since then, Sentry aircraft have been involved in British operations including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the Greater Middle East and the Caribbean, as well as a NATO role.

The sentry is also known as the Airborne Warning and Control System or AWACS.

This recent deployment saw operational sorties flown on Op Shader, as well as sorties in support of Operation Fortis, the deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Carrier Strike Group.

A member of the Royal Air Force greets his children under the wing of the plane for the first time since its deployment. | Photo: SAC Amelia Turnbull / MOD

Describing his most recent missions, 8 Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Victoria Williams, said: A resounding success.

“This was the fleet’s first operational detachment since 2016 and involved an entire force of the RAF, reservists and contractors to complete 30 missions in 9 weeks.

“The Sentry was able to provide the recognized aerial and surface image to the Carrier Strike Group to facilitate its safe transit from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Suez.

“The skills and experience of Sentry crews, especially those developed by working closely with naval resources during this deployment, will now be reinvested. The E-7 Wedgetail program will enter service in 2023, replacing Sentry as the RAF’s airborne early warning and airborne command and control platform.

RAF families saluting as their families get off the plane and a banner held by two little girls. | Photo: SAC Amelia Turnbull / MOD

An officer holding his children for the first time since his deployment. Photo: SAC Amelia Turnbull / MOD

Deployed staff are reuniting with their children for the first time. | Photo: SAC Amelia Turnbull / MOD

A family holding a banner made to greet their family as they return from a deployment. | Photo: SAC Amelia Turnbull / MOD

An officer greeting his child for the first time since his deployment and two children in the background running towards their out-of-frame family member. | Photo: SAC Amelia Turnbull / MOD

A deployed member of the Royal Air Force greets his family. | Photo: SAC Amelia Turnbull / MOD

Reflecting on the return of the E-3D Sentry to RAF Waddington Group, Captain Robert O’Dell, ISTAR HQ Deputy Capability Chief said: “I am exceptionally proud to have been associated with Sentry in various, testing and supporting roles since joining in 1991. Sentry defined my career and it is inevitably with mixed feelings that I find myself today involved in his retirement.

“However, all E-3D aircrews, ground personnel and support civilians should feel rightly proud of the enormous contribution they have made to air policing, combat and United Kingdom and NATO humanitarian aid organizations in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, as well as Libya. fight drug trafficking in the Caribbean.

The crew bringing the luggage down the stairs of the plane. | Photo: SAC Amelia Turnbull / MOD

E-3D, ZH101, on the 8 Squadron set after landing at RAF Waddington. | Photo: SAC James Skerrett RAF / MOD

The last Royal Air Force Sentry E3-D aircraft landing at its home base at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire after its last operational tour. | Photo: Sgt Nik Howe / MOD



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