Airborne Stand-Off Reconnaissance (ASTOR)
ASTOR, the Airborne Stand-Off Reconnaissance system integrated by Raytheon for the U.K. Ministry of Defence, is an advanced air-to-ground surveillance system that will be jointly operated by the RAF and the British Army. The program draws on Raytheon’s considerable capability in advanced surveillance radar, communications, networking and systems integration. ASTOR provides the U.K. world-class capabilities within the network-enabled battlespace. The ASTOR system represents a new era in military operations planning and management, delivering more accurate information and increasing the speed of decision making.
The system provides a highly effective 24-hour surveillance and target acquisition capability. It delivers wide area, all weather surveillance and reconnaissance imagery in near real time for peacekeeping, warfighting and homeland security needs.
Designated as the Sentinel Project in service with the U.K., ASTOR uses the Bombardier Global Express business jet, known in service as the Sentinel R Mk 1, and an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The RAF Joint 5 (AC) Squadron Sentinel fleet comprises five aircraft and eight Ground Stations – six for tactical purposes and two at the operational level.
The MoD declared the Sentinel in service in November 2008. Since then, the system has deployed on two operational trials and is currently deployed on an enduring basis.
At the heart of the ASTOR system is a dual-mode synthetic aperture radar/moving target indicator (SAR/MTI) sensor. The SAR provides high-resolution images for decision makers and the MTI monitors the quantity, direction and speed of moving targets for unparalleled situational awareness. The imagery, which can be exploited both on board the aircraft and on the ground, is passed by secure data links to ground stations at all levels of command and control. By operating at high altitude, and at considerable long range stand-off distances, the radar platform is able to remain over safe territory while providing an excellent “look-down” angle of the target area.
The Sentinel’s main operating base is at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, which houses Squadron Headquarters, maintenance, support and training facilities. The 5 (AC) Squadron was re-formed in 2004 specifically to operate ASTOR. Training for the first group of students commenced during early 2005.
The ASTOR system capabilities have been tested extensively in preparation for operational, tactical and theater mission scenarios. ASTOR is designed to be interoperable with NATO and JSTARS assets. As prime contractor, Raytheon has been responsible for delivering full capability: hardware, software, infrastructure, training and a comprehensive CLS package. Over the course of the systems integration, Raytheon has worked closely with partners such as Bombardier, L-3, DE&S and General Dynamics. Raytheon Systems Limited continues to offer full mission support capabilities the U.K. Ministry of Defence to ensure that the ASTOR program is fully meeting the customer’s needs.