UK Air Force deploys world’s most advanced spy plane

Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) has announced the official deployment of what it describes as “the most advanced long-range, airborne surveillance system of its kind in the world”. The aircraft-based system is called ASTOR (Airborne Stand-Off Radar) and is installed on Raytheon’s Sentinel R1 jets. The ASTOR radar is reportedly so advanced that it can detect target movement over “thousands of square miles, looking deep into valleys, picking out well-used enemy routes and mapping vehicle activity”, and can even perform during bad weather at night. What is more, the twin-engine aircraft can do all that while flying up to 7.5 miles above ground level, thus staying clear of any engagement by most air-defense systems, including surface-to-air missiles. Britain’s Defense Ministry has said the per-unit cost of this new system is around £200,000 (nearly $300,000). It also revealed earlier this month that the radar-equipped jets were successfully tested in Afghanistan in November and December of 2008. More information about the ASTOR system and the Sentinel R1 can be found here (in .pdf).

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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