Royal Air Force retires E-3D Sentry AEW1

The UK officially retired its E-3D Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) fleet at a ceremony at RAF Waddington on September 28, marking the end of 30 years of service with the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The E-3D has served the RAF and NATO nations in a number of operations and theatres across the globe, ranging from counter narcotic operations in the Caribbean through to Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was during Operation Iraqi Freedom that the UK E-3D Sentry and its operating unit, No. 8 Squadron RAF, accumulated more flying hours than any other platform in UK service.

RAF E-3D Sentry flies over the RAF Flag during its retirement ceremony at RAF Waddington. Joe Campion

The E-3D has more recently been involved in Operation Shader against Daesh and worked in close support of the UK Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment during Operation Fortis.

The retirement of the E-3D will not be the end for No. 8 Squadron, which will relocate from RAF Waddington to RAF Lossiemouth to operate the Boeing E-7 Wedgetail when it enters service. The Wedgetail is equipped with more modern technologies and systems in comparison to its predecessor and will help the RAF AWACS force adapt to the modern-day theatre.

Two RAF E-3D Sentry's sit on RAF Waddington's ramp during the parade still showcasing 8 Squadron  markings. Joe Campion

Station Commander of RAF Waddington, Group Captain Stephen Kilvington said: “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.”