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RAF Waddington surveillance aircraft helps flooded areas

RAF Waddington is using its top surveillance equipment to help capture details about flood-hit areas of the country.

A Tornado GR4 fast jet and a Sentinel R1 aircraft are producing images to aid the planning and co-ordination of multi-agency relief efforts for local communities.

The Tornado’s reconnaissance pod produces optical imagery that complements the Sentinel’s radar pictures.

The Reconnaissance pods on Tornado aircraft are used in many military operations such as in Afghanistan, scanning and capturing large areas of interest in just one dispatch.

An RAF engineer prepares a Tornado's reconnaissance pod to provide imagery of the Thames Valley area. Photo: Senior Aircraftman Andy Masson
An RAF engineer prepares a Tornado’s reconnaissance pod to provide imagery of the Thames Valley area. Photo: Senior Aircraftman Andy Masson

The Sentinel system provides all-weather surveillance information to produce photo-like imagery of the ground from radar returns.

The images will be converted into large-scale maps to assist with relief planning and then early identification of areas at high risk of more flooding.

The images can also be matched up to photos of serious flooding in the Thames Valley in 1947, caused by melting snow and extended periods of heavy rain.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “With thousands of military personnel already playing their part in efforts to help flood-affected communities, the RAF is now delivering this additional and highly specialist support.

“This Tornado-borne surveillance capability is very much proven in a combat role in Afghanistan but its versatility is underlined by its use here at home to support ongoing flood relief efforts.

“As the Prime Minister has made clear, whatever assets we have at our disposal that can make a difference, we will use them.”

An electro-optical image of the extensive flooding in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire. Photo: MOD
An electro-optical image of the extensive flooding in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire. Photo: MOD

No 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron operates the Sentinel at RAF Waddington.

Squadron Leader Victoria Fulton added: “We are working closely with the relevant civilian authorities to provide whatever assistance we can.

“The Sentinel has long-range capabilities which enable highly-trained airborne image analysts onboard to capture imagery of large parts of the flooded areas.

“It is hoped that this key information will greatly assist the civilian authorities when determining where best to focus their efforts.”

County firefighters deployed to help

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue also sent teams in the south of the country this week to help with flooding response.