LONDON — The U.K. Royal Air Force expects to soon receive confirmation that its fleet of five Sentinel R-1 surveillance aircraft is to be retained in service.
The airborne stand-off radar (ASTOR) system, operated by 5 Army Cooperation Squadron from RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, was scheduled to be withdrawn from service in 2015, following the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.
Key capabilities fielded by Britain's Royal Air Force in Afghanistan and highly prized across the NATO-led coalition face uncertain futures once the Tornado GR4 aircraft is retired toward the end of the decade. As the RAF looks ahead to a fleet comprising Typhoons and F-35Bs, there are no plans in place to retain two systems that have become invaluable in-theater.
At first glance, not a great deal is remarkable about the black-and-white photograph (below) in which one can see the Queen Mary, portside at Long Beach, Calif. The luxury liner is clearly visible in the large-format image, with a degree of detail showing portholes, lifeboats, balconies and balustrades. Yet the image's exceptional qualities lie in where it was taken: from an aircraft flying at 40,000 ft., 72 nm away.
South Koreans may have legitimate cause to disagree, but the nation in the east Asian region that has had the longest-term cause to build and maintain robust defenses against an unpredictable near neighbour is surely Taiwan.
It is not difficult to identify the biggest issues facing military planners in East Asia. A resurgent China, apparently keen to begin flexing its ever-strengthening military muscles, and a North Korea that is both ambitious and more politically unstable than ever following Kim Jong Il’s death in December 2011, are providing more sleepless nights than even the perennial problems of natural resource access, smuggling of contraband and people, piracy, and home-grown terrorism.