His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex Marks E-3D Sentry Retirement After 30 Years
(Source: Royal Air Force; issued Sept. 30, 2021)
While the Royal Air Force yesterday retired its remaining fleet of four Boeing E-3D Sentry aircraft, it has reduced its purchase of their successor, the E-7 Wedgetail, from five to three aircraft, the first of which will not enter service until 2023. (RAF photo)

A Royal Parade, attended by His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex, was held today at RAF Waddington to mark the retirement of the E-3D Sentry from RAF service.

His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex, an Honorary Air Commodore, reviewed the parade and 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.

The Officer Commanding 8 Squadron, Wing Commander Williams, was the parade commander for the event which saw a flypast from an 8 Squadron E-3D Sentry.

"The parade today 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," said Wing Commander Williams.

The event also marked 30 years of RAF service for an aircraft which has seen extensive use during operations and with NATO. These operations include the first deployment, to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM which saw the RAF Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) force clock up more flying hours in Iraqi airspace than all other RAF aircraft combined.

Through to counter narcotic drug operations in the Caribbean and most 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 retirement of the Sentry will see 8 Squadron relocated to RAF Lossiemouth where they will operate the E-7 Wedgetail which offers a significant stride forward in capability. For RAF Waddington this is another important step as the next generation Royal Air Force takes shape at the Station.

"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 £94 million 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," said Group Captain Kilvington, Station Commander, RAF Waddington.

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