RAF Waddington

Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, visited RAF Waddington on Tuesday to mark the retirement of the E-3D Sentry from RAF service after 30 years.

A Royal Parade was held on Tuesday, September 28 and the event saw a flypast conducted by an 8 Squadron E-3D Sentry.

The event also marked three decades of RAF service for an aircraft. The retirement of the Sentry will see 8 Squadron relocated to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, where they will operate the E-7 Wedgetail.

The flypast of an 8 Squadron E3-D Sentry during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

8 Squadron infront of the Sentry E-3D. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

The aircraft has seen extensive use during operations and with NATO. These operations range from counter narcotic drug operations in the Caribbean through to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

More recently, the aircraft was employed on Operation Shader in the fight against Daesh and on Operation Fortis which saw them directly supporting the UK Carrier Strike Group.

The event was attended and reviewed by Prince Edward, an Honorary Air Commodore. He was accompanied by Air Officer Commanding Number 1 Group, Air Vice Marshal Allan Marshall and the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force Commander, Major General Thomas E Kunkel from the United States Air Force.

His Royal Highness, Prince Edward, as the reviewing officer for 8 Squadron parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

HRH Prince Edward inspecting 8 Squadron personnel during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

The Officer Commander 8 Squadron, Wing Commander Victoria Williams, during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

The Officer Commanding 8 Squadron, Wing Commander Victoria Williams was the parade commander.

She said: “The parade has provided a fitting send-off for an iconic aircraft, the day is clearly an emotional one but we are all incredibly proud of what has been achieved over the last 30 years.

“The commitment and output provided to UK Defence and NATO has been exceptional and I know that 8 Squadron will be looking forward to transitioning to the E-7 Wedgetail in due course.”

The flypast of an 8 Squadron E3-D Sentry during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

HRH Prince Edward and Group Capt Kilvington, Station Commander at RAF Waddington, during the flypast of an 8 Squadron E3-D Sentry during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

Group Captain Stephen Kilvington, the Station Commander at RAF Waddington, said: “As a previous Commander of 8 Squadron I am extremely proud of what the E-3D Sentry has delivered across its 30 years of service.

“It has been an outstanding capability operated by outstanding people. The reputation of the Force in the RAF and with our Allies is second to none and so it is only natural that its retirement is tinged with sadness.

“The future for our intelligence assets is an exciting one. 8 Squadron will introduce Wedgetail into service at RAF Lossiemouth whilst RAF Waddington will benefit from £94M of investment to support the arrival of Protector and our wider capabilities, ensuring our people continue to deliver exceptional operational output for many years to come.”

See the rest of the gallery below:

8 Squadron personnel during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

HRH Prince Edward and Group Capt Kilvington, Station Commander at RAF Waddington, during the flypast of an 8 Squadron E3-D Sentry during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

His Royal Highness Prince Edward talking to the 8 Squadron. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

Prince Edward speaking to 8 Squadron personnel during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

The Earl of Wessex and Group Capt Kilvington during the flypast of an 8 Squadron E3-D Sentry during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

8 Squadron personnel during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

8 Squadron personnel during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

HRH Prince Edward inspecting 8 Squadron personnel during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

The Earl of Wessex and Group Capt Kilvington during the flypast of an 8 Squadron E3-D Sentry during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

HRH Prince Edward and Group Capt Kilvington, Station Commander at RAF Waddington, during the flypast of an 8 Squadron E3-D Sentry during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

Officer Commander 8 Sqaudron, Wing Commander Victoria Williams, during the parade. | Photo: UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

The much-discussed SkyGuardian drone, which will be operated from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, has been unveiled at the airbase as part of a £94 million investment in infrastructure and defence.

A pre-production example of the new Protector drones arrived at RAF Waddington, the base of its operations, in anticipation of the arrival of the full Protector aircrafts in 2024.

The UK has ordered 16 of the Protector RG MK1 drones from General Atomics, all of which will be based at RAF Waddington, which will get a £94 million investment as part of the programme.

The SkyGuardian has arrived in Lincolnshire for its UK trials. | Photo: GA-ASI

The investment will help house the aircraft and improve infrastructure at RAF Waddington in preparation of the Protector going into service in the next few years.

It will also see the development of a new campus that will include the Protector International Training Centre, which will enable crews from the RAF to conduct training in a secure environment, as well as creating many jobs for the local economy.

The SkyGuardian drone on the runway at RAF Waddington. | GA-ASI

The SkyGuardian prototype drone arrived in Lincolnshire at the end of August, and will be part of trials for a remotely piloted aircraft system that is similar to the equipment used for the Protectors.

The SkyGuardian will only fly in approved areas, and will operate within CAA regulations, much like any other aircraft in the UK airspace.

The arrival of the drones has been a topic of debate in Lincolnshire, with campaigners opposing the plans and some staging a protest outside the airbase in August, calling for a halt to US drone testing.

Campaigners were calling for a halt to drone flights in the UK, not just at RAF Waddington.

Secretary of State of Defence Ben Wallace (far right) watching the SkyGuardian aircraft flying over RAF Waddington. whilst standing alongside RAF Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston (far left) and Air Vice Marshal Lincoln Taylor RAF’s Chief of Staff Capability (left). | Photo: Sgt Nicholas Howe RAF

Speaking at RAF Waddington, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Today marks a huge milestone in the Protector programme, bringing us one step closer to delivering this world-leading capability to the RAF.

“This £94 million investment cements RAF Waddington’s place as the UK’s ISTAR hub, ensuring our Protector fleet can operate safely and effectively for many years to come.”

It has already completed a number of sorties to show off its capabilities. | Photo: GA-ASI

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said: “The Protector aircraft is a huge leap forward in performance and autonomous technology. It can fly for 40 hours anywhere in the world, providing critical surveillance and precision strike to protect the UK and our allies.

“As the lead customer for this aircraft, I am delighted the Royal Air Force is once again at the cutting edge of air power innovation.”

RAF Waddington is now the host of a new SkyGuardian drone after it landed in Lincolnshire for trial flights this week.

American company General Atomics has made plans for its SkyGuardian drone to take off from RAF Waddington between August and September this year, and it arrived in Lincolnshire on Wednesday, August 25.

The drone flights are in anticipation of the arrival of 16 Protector RG MK1s, which are replacing the current Reaper drones and are capable of being flown anywhere in the world while operated from personnel in Lincolnshire.

The General Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian drone arriving at RAF Waddington. | Photo: Michael Hiley

The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) is similar to the new equipment that will be based at RAF Waddington from 2024.

RAF Waddington has said that the Protector’s contribution will create over 200 jobs and reinvest £400 million into the UK economy.

Experimental flights will take place between August and September. | Photo: Mark Suffield

The plans for drone testing have been met with opposition by local residents, who held a protest outside RAF Waddington airbase earlier in August, calling for a halt to experimental drone flights.

Airspace regulators gave the SkyGuardian the go-ahead in July despite campaigners’ pleas, and will stay at RAF Waddington until it completes operations in North East Scotland, at RAF Lossiemouth, in October.

Arriving for its first mission. | Photo: Mark Suffield

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