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UK Shadow upgrade passes critical design review

The UK is upgrading and expanding the size of its Shadow special mission aircraft fleet. (Crown Copyright)

The UK programme to upgrade and expand the size of its Raytheon Shadow special mission aircraft fleet has passed its critical design review (CDR), the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on 9 March.

In announcing a GBP11.5 million (USD13.6 million) training contract for the capability with Raytheon, the MoD said that the Shadow R2 upgrade and its efforts to increase the fleet from six to eight aircraft had successfully passed its CDR.

β€œThe CDR confirms the baseline configuration for the aircraft, defining the equipment fit, which will maintain this leading capability,” the MoD said.

Having entered service as an urgent operational requirement in 2007, the Shadow provides an electronic intelligence (ELINT) capability based on the Beechcraft King Air 350 airframe.

The secretive nature of the Shadow's mission has meant that, while its existence has been acknowledged, neither the MoD nor Raytheon has divulged any details as to the specific nature of its role, or the means by which it performs it.

In 2018, the RAF embarked on a β€˜Mk 2' connectivity upgrade for the Shadow R1 to enable the evolution of capability enhancements. Work also includes integrating the Leonardo Miysis Directed Infrared Countermeasure (DIRCM) suite and Thales Elix-IR threat warner and Vicon countermeasures dispensing system for the full defensive package against the latest-generation infrared (IR)-seeking missiles.

The first Shadow R2 is to be delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 2024, with the type set to remain in service until 2030 (as set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review [SDSR] of 2015).

The Shadow fleet is operated by 14 Squadron out of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

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