Earlier in the afternoon a Royal Air Force Shadow R1 (B350 King Air) aircraft landed at Malta International Airport for the first time ever. It seems the aircraft is on a navigational exercise and its enroute back to the United Kingdom.
The Shadow R1 contributes to the RAF’s ISTAR Force’s comprehensive intelligence gathering through a variety of sensors. Ground commanders value its output in particular.
The Shadow’s high-resolution electro-optical and electronic sensors work in tandem with other platforms and capabilities, allowing analysts to create more comprehensive intelligence products. During a mission, satellite communications links allow data to be downloaded and off-boarded, and the aircraft is also equipped with a defensive assistance suite.
The MOD ordered four Shadow R Mark 1 aircraft, based on the King Air 350CER, as an Urgent Operational Requirement. The Shadow, which was delivered to the RAF in 2009 and is flown by 5 (AC) Squadron, has an under-fuselage electro-optical sensor turret, a number of integrated sensors, and an extensive communications capabilities, all of which are controlled from operator consoles in the cabin.
After the old Tornado unit was decommissioned at RAF Lossiemouth under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, Number 5 (AC) Squadron’s Shadow Flight became 14 Squadron in 2011. During the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Shadow capability was shifted from Urgent Operational Requirement to the core MOD Equipment Programme, and the fleet was increased to six Shadow R1.
Under the Shadow Mk2 Upgrade Programme, the existing Shadow fleet will be modified and expanded to eight aircraft.