I really do appreciate an aircraft that looks elegant. One such type is the Bombardier Global Express. Built to take on the Gulfstream family, it is a great looking plane with a graceful front fuselage, cracking looking wing and even the empennage is stylishly done. Therefore, you might be forgiven for thinking that I was not impressed when Raytheon took a great looking plane and grafted on some enormous lumps and bumps to create the Sentinel.
Built for Britain’s Royal Air Force, the Sentinel is a battlefield surveillance aircraft in the mold of the USAF JSTARS program but a generation on a bit more compact. It also makes use of a more modern airframe as its starting point. While the changes have not done anything to make the plane look pretty, I do have a soft spot for unusual aircraft configurations and large radomes and sitcom covers fit with this idea. Consequently, I rather like the Sentinel. Seeing them in action at Red Flag was a nice opportunity.
Having spent a lot of money on the Sentinel, the UK government announced that, with the reduction in involvement in Afghanistan, the Sentinels would be retired. Retirement sounds inappropriate for something so new but that was the story. Fortunately, it appears that the plan has been adjusted and they have been reprieved for now. We shall see how that develops.
The aircraft are operated by 5 (AC) Squadron of the RAF. 5 Sqn was one of the early Tornado ADV squadrons when it converted to Lightnings. I liked their colors with the maple leaf on a red background. When I worked at Warton, one side project I got involved with was the repainting of a restored Lightning in 5 Sqn colors before it was put on display. Having the Sentinels showing up from 5 Sqn was nice, not least because one of the two jets had the squadron colors displayed over the usual dull grey finish. Both aircraft flew while I was there both day and night. They are an unusual sight to see so it was good to catch them at work.