RAF Shadows conduct ISTAR operations over Eastern Mediterranean

Two RAF-operated Shadow R2s (ZZ418 and ZZ507) deployed via Naples to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, on October 25 to carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations over the Eastern Mediterranean.

This current deployment seems to be connected to ongoing events in Israel, Gaza and Lebanon, with the two ISR aircraft having been seen on flight tracking websites operating off the Lebanese coast, typically flying at altitudes of between 25,000-30,000ft. Shadow R2 (ZZ507) flew a mission over the Eastern Mediterranean on October 31, followed by another on November 2, while the second aircraft (ZZ418) was seen flying a similar sortie profile on November 6.

Based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and operated by No 14 Squadron, the RAF's Shadow R2 fleet forms an integral part of the air arm's ISTAR force.
Based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and operated by No 14 Squadron, the RAF's Shadow R2 fleet forms an integral part of the air arm's ISTAR force. MOD Crown Copyright

The Shadow is no stranger to Akrotiri, being a fairly regular visitor to the base. One was briefly based at Akrotiri in February, this year, and another staged via the Cypriot base while en-route to King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Air Base in southern Jordan for Exercise Chameleon 23-1 – a biannual UK Special Forces exercise that was relocated to Jordan from Leuchars Station (formerly RAF Leuchars) in Fife, Scotland, because of poor weather.

The RAF is coy as to the exact role and capabilities possessed by its King Air 350C-based Shadow R1/R2 fleet, which was acquired as a result of a UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) issued in 2007 and intended to provide a replacement for the overland intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability previously provided by the Nimrod MR2 fleet in Afghanistan. The aircraft is fitted with an under-fuselage L3Harris WESCAM MX-15 wide-area surveillance (WAS) sensor turret and a communications intelligence (COMINT) kit. The newer Shadow R2 variant has received connectivity enhancements and a much improved defensive aids suite.