The RAF’s Sentinel R1 airborne stand-off radar aircraft and the Royal Navy’s Sea King Mk7 airborne surveillance and control helicopter are to be deployed to support operations in Afghanistan as part of a force increase at least during the country’s national election.
The Sentinel has already been used for operational trials in theater – believed to include counter improvised explosive device (IED) operations. The navy has previously been keen to deploy the Sea King Mk7 to Afghanistan to show the surveillance helicopter’s over land capability.
John Hutton, the British defense secretary, said “We shall also deploy Sea King air surveillance and control helicopters and the new airborne stand-off radar. These complementary systems use radar to track movements on the ground. They can help our forces to detect, follow and intercept insurgents before they can lay IEDs.”
He added that the number of tactical unmanned aerial vehicles is to be increased, though he did not specify types. The UK operates the Hermes 450 and the Reaper in Afghanistan.
British military personnel numbers will rise to 9,000 during the election period, though the intent at present is then to reduce this to 8,300 in 2010 – around the present deployment figure.
Additional rotary capability is also to be provided. Merlin Mk3s from 78 Squadron are expected to be deployed toward the end of this year.
Picture Credit RAF/Crown, Copyright Royal Navy/Crown Copyright