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New defensive aids for RAF Shadow ISTAR fleet

Photo: RAF Shadow ZZ419 has now been upgraded to R1A standard. The immediate difference is the bulged fairing on top of the tailplane. Hywel Evans


The UK Ministry of Defence has ordered a Leonardo/Thales integrated UK defensive aids system (DAS) for the RAF Shadow ISTAR fleet. The procurement will equip the RAF’s fleet of eight Shadow R1 intelligence-gathering aircraft, providing protection against the latest generation of infrared-guided missiles. 

Designed, developed and manufactured in the UK, the system provides a sovereign capability which will be able to evolve in anticipation of changing threats to air platforms. 

The contract will be delivered by a combined MOD/Leonardo/Thales team under a Leonardo prime systems integration contract, with the equipment being integrated onto the platform by Raytheon UK. Initial operating capability is targeted for early 2021. The system consists of the following subsystems: 

* Thales Elix-IR threat warner 

* Leonardo DAS controller 

* Leonardo Miysis directed infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) 

* Thales Vicon countermeasures dispensing system 

The single-source selection by the MOD follows the recent SALT III international trials hosted by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration in Sweden. There, the integrated Miysis/Elix-IR system, using a jamming waveform developed by the UK MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, proved its ability to defeat IR-guided missiles in live-fire exercises. 

Close-up of the Miysis DIRCM for the RAF Shadow. Leonardo

RAF Shadow

Based at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, No 14 Squadron operates a Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350ER derivative known as the Shadow. The Shadow is one of the UK’s most secretive aircraft and, among roles, is equipped to provide airborne surveillance for ground troops.

Its mission fit includes a fully integrated communications system comprising radios with data link and SATCOM capabilities, a Wescam MX-15 360° sensor system and a fully integrated self-protection suite.

Shadow was procured against an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) and introduced into service in Afghanistan during mid-2009, around the same time the Nimrod R2 was being withdrawn. The RAF had ordered four missionised King Airs in September 2008 and after system installation at Raytheon’s Hawarden, Flintshire facility, they were delivered by December 2009.

A fifth Shadow was subsequently ordered and was delivered to in December 2011, following its mission equipment fit with Raytheon UK. In November 2015 it was announced the fleet would be increased to eight aircraft. A civil King Air B300 is also used for crew training.

The existing Shadow R1 fleet is now being upgraded to Shadow R1A standard. Three additional aircraft have all been acquired on the secondhand market and include the former crew training aircraft and will eventually be converted to Shadow R2 configuration.



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