New Spy Planes at Waddington

The Royal Air Force has been flying modified Beechcraft 350C King Air special mission aircraft, designated Shadow R1, from its RAF Waddington intelligence, surveillance and reconnaisssance hub since 2009; No.14 Squadron stood up on the type at Waddington in October 2011. Long threatened by defence cuts, the type’s future was eventually assured in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review which declared that the squadron’s fleet of five Shadow R1s (and one barebones Beechcraft King Air 350C used for training) would be added to by three additional airframes and that the type would continue in service until at least 2030. The first concrete steps towards this goal took place on September 26, 2017 when the first of two ‘new’ King Airs, G-GMAD (c/n FM-54) arrived at Waddington followed by a second, G-DAYP (c/n FM-29) the following day. The third example is expected to be G-LBSB, presently No.14 Squadron’s training airframe. Current plans call for all three to undergo conversion to Shadow R1 configuration in the first instance before the entire fleet is upgraded to a yet to be specified R2 standard. One of the ‘new’ aircraft, G-DAYP, left Waddington on October 3 and flew to Kidlington airport near Oxford and has not returned to the Lincolnshire base.