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Scene around the UK

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25 February 2009 - Yeovilton

Sporting new artwork to celebrate the Fleet Air Arm's 100th anniversary was Hawk T1 XX301 from the Navy's FRADU. No doubt it will be a well-spotted addition to this year's airshow scene. Picture courtesy Bill Cardno

16 February 2009 - Waddington

Seen on approach was E-3A LX-N90443 from NATO's Airborne Early Warning Force, still wearing its anniversary scheme to celebrate the twenty-fifth birthday of the NAEW&CF in 2007. With 2009 being the sixtieth anniversary of NATO itself, will we see a new scheme or will '443 simply gain some new numbers? Picture courtesy David Holmes

10 February 2009 - Waddington

The RAF has taken delivery of its fifth and final Sentinel R1, ZJ694, completing a eleven-year journey from contract award in 1998. 5(AC) Squadron has recently returned from successful trials in Afghanistan where the ASTOR system (Airborne Stand-Off Radar) was used to gather vital information for forces in the fight against the Taleban between 15 November and 18 December over eighteen sorties.

ASTOR can detect and recognise moving, static and fixed targets on the ground, the Sentinel 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.

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. ASTOR 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 aircraft but will continue to deliver support services to the system over the next ten years.


8 February 2009 - Mildenhall

Making a splash-n-dash was 'Air Force 2', a C-32A with the air traffic control call sign used by any United States Air Force aircraft carrying the Vice President, but not the President. Security was tight around the airfield, as one would expect. Picture courtesy Benn George

31 January 2009 - Mildenhall

Departing for Leeming were two 81st FS A-10As from Spangdahlem, Germany. They returned early on Sunday, presumably after a Forward Air Controller debrief or something similar? Maybe we'll be treated to another deployment to the UK later this year? Picture courtesy Benn George

27 January 2009 - Mildenhall

Another day, another Bone - this time 86-0115 departing after landing the previous day. Picture courtesy Benn George

24 January 2009 - Mildenhall

Departing at 12:15 were two B-1Bs from the 7th BW that diverted into Mildenhall in the early hours of Friday morning due to tanker issues. The two Bones, Rama 31 & 32, are en-route to a 'deployed location'.

17 January 2009 - Waddington

Departing after a night stop was Luftwaffe A310 10+23 from the Flugbereitschaft BMVg based at Cologne. One of seven A310s in service with the German Air Force, this particular machine is used as a passenger transporter and is nicknamed 'Kurt Schumacher' after the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany from 1945 to 1952. Picture courtesy Kevin Bell

16 January 2009 - Wattisham

We've had An-124s, but the second largest aircraft to land at Wattisham is probably the C-17A, making its first visit to the base of 2009 to pick up two Apaches and transport them to Arizona. Picture courtesy Gary Stedman

15 January 2009 - Coningsby

Emergency divert with a suspected Hydrazine leak was Italian Air Force F-16A MM7255, fresh out of a TLP mission from Florennes. Parked away from the other aircraft, no leak was found - the aircraft is easily visible from the spotters' car park.

15 December 2008 - Mildenhall

89th AW VC-25A 82-8000 made a brief stop, calling 'Air Force 1', presumably taking President Bush back to the USA after his recent visit to Iraq. Picture courtesy Wayne Button

14 December 2008 - Mildenhall

NASA WB-57F 63-13298 arrived back at Mildenhall after weeks away in Europe somewhere as 'NASA 928'. Unlike sister-ship '926, it doesn't wear NASA markings, suggesting it has possibly been used by other US Agencies. Picture courtesy Mark Rouse

13 December 2008 - Cranfield

Lightning T5 XS458 was run for the last time in 2008 - in the skilled hands of former Lightning pilot Dennis Brooks, XS458 weathered atrocious weather conditions, with a strong wind, and driving rain, to perform two wonderful afterburner runs along the runway at Cranfield Aerodrome. The low cloud base actually enhanced the two massive jets of reheat, which are engaged for just two or three seconds before the throttle is disengaged to prevent the Lightning become airborne - a temptation which no doubt Dennis would love to enjoy one last time!

XS458 lives permanently outside, and is due for some routine maintenance during the coming months. The next powered run is due for April 2009, with owner Russell Carpenter planning a full programme for the remainder of the year. Russell hopes to have a dedicated website up and running shortly, which will present details of future fixtures. Anyone remotely interested in Cold War fighters would thrill to the sights and sounds of the two Rolls Royce Avon engines being spooled up to bring XS458 into life. With afterburners engaged, the sight of the Lightning hurtling, albeit oh so briefly, along the undulating runway at Cranfield, was indeed an early Christmas present without comparison. Roll on 2009. Courtesy Bob Archer


3 December 2008 - Syerston

In addition to its normal contingent of Grobs and gliders, RAF Syerston in Notts is currently the temporary home of some more exotic types from across the British aviation sector.

Noted today were Royal Navy Merlin HM1 ZH849 and Army Air Corps Lynx AH7 XZ217, working in-conjunction with ground-based Beech B300C Super King Air G-JENC. Despite its civilian registration the King Air wore low-visibility markings and appeared to have a military serial taped over - it is believed to be registered by Raytheon Systems and seemed to be trialling communications equipment with the Lynx probably before being delivered to 5(AC) Squadron at Waddington as the first Shadow R1 (it is believed). Courtesy Howard Heeley/Down to Earth Promotions


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