RAF E-3D Sentry AEW.1s were acquired to act as airborne early warning aircraft in the air defence role. The type has since had its duties expanded to encompass battle management. As a result, the MoD is investing over £400 million on an upgrade to become a hub of network-centric warfare.
Operators aboard RAF E-3Ds are also performing the battle management role in addition to their traditional air defence work. This increase in the range of tasks undertaken has led to a tenth mission console being added to each aircraft.
A Nimrod R.1 of 51 Squadron takes off from its home base of RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. These electronic intelligence gathering aircraft have been involved in trials to improve the flow of information between land, sea and air assets. One exercise tested the ability to reduce the time taken to detect, approve and strike a target.
Sentinel R.1s will help add to the overall picture of the battle space by being able to track ground targets as well as provide high resolution imagery at distances of several hundred miles. They will provide a capability similar to the USAF's E-8 J-Stars.