The latest Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), published on 23 November 2015, provided a significant boost to Britain’s airborne intelligence, surveillance, target-acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities with the decision to acquire the P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft. Moreover, the SDSR provides clarity with regard to the longer-term composition of Britain’s airborne ISTAR assets: the Sentinel R1 will remain in service into the next decade, with the Shadow R1, 2030, and the E-3D AWACs and RC-135 Rivet Joint/Airseeker remaining in service until 2035. In addition, the UK will procure 20 new Protector unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) to replace the current fleet of Reapers in the combat ISTAR role. The acquisition of the P-8 and projected out-of-service dates for the Sentinel, Shadow, E-3D and Airseeker provide a benchmark from which thinking on the future of Britain’s airborne ISTAR capability can be developed. Dr. James Bosbotinis reflects on these developments.
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