The E-3D Sentry returns home after final operational tour.

The final touchdown for the AWACS

The Boeing E-3D Sentry has touched down for the final time at RAF Waddington after thirty years in service

After thirty years of service, the E-3D Sentry, AKA The Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS), has flown its final operational flight before returning home on 4th August to RAF Waddington.

The aircraft flew its final operational mission on the 30th July over Iraq as part of the counter-Daesh Operation SHADER.

The Sentry is set to retire this year and will be replaced in 2023 by a fleet of three Boeing E-7 Wedgetails, which will operate from RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland.

During the period between retirement and the Wedgetail becoming operational, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) will be covered by a combination of other aircraft and E-3s from our NATO partners.

Boeing E-7 Wedgetail aircraft.
Three Boeing E-7 Wedgetail aircraft will replace the E-3D Sentry aircraft which is set to retire later this year.

The Sentry aircraft can be easily picked out of a crowd with their distinctive radar domes mounted on top, and have been keeping watch from high in the sky and keeping the Alliance safe and secure for over 30 years.

They first began service in 1991 and have contributed to many operations in many countries around the world, including:

  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • Libya
  • the broader Middle East
  • the Caribbean
E-3D Sentry.
The E-3D Sentry has contributed to thirty years of operations across the world.

They even kept a close eye on the security of international sporting events — the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Greece, the 2006 World Cup Football Championship in Germany and the 2012 European Football Championship in Poland.

The Sentry’s final deployment saw it contribute to Operation SHADER in the fight against Daesh and more recently carrying out operational sorties in support of the UK Carrier Strike Group deployment. It has played a huge role in providing ‘big picture’ situational awareness for our allies.

“Whether operating from their home base at Waddington or airfields from across Europe and the broader Middle East, Sentry has contributed by providing a Recognised Air and Maritime Picture that has enabled others to operate with significant freedom of action against the most hostile of threats.”

— Air Commodore Hay, Commander of the Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance Force

The Boeing E-3D — AKA the AWACS — taking off.
The Boeing E-3D, AKA the AWACS, taking off.

The aircraft can detect aircraft 400 kilometres away, and build a complete picture of the airspace, including the type of aircraft, position and altitude. It can direct aircraft to wherever they need to go and also be sure that they are safe and avoid collisions. A flying air traffic controller if you will.

“Sentry’s return from a hugely successful overseas deployment heralds a fitting end to over 30 years of continuous service in support of NATO, other coalition and national operations.”

— Air Commodore Hay, Commander of the Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance Force

Take a look at some photos of the E-3D Sentry on its return back home to RAF Waddington👇

The E-3D Sentry takes to the skies one final time.
The E-3D Sentry takes to the skies one final time.
The E-3D Sentry returns home after final operational tour.
The E-3D Sentry is set to retire later this year.
The E-3D Sentry lands at RAF Waddington.
The NATO Commander, Officer Commanding 8 Squadron, Station Commander, Air Officer Commanding 1 Group, Deputy ISTAR Force Commander, Deputy NATO AEW&C Force Commander and ZH101’s crew welcome the E-3D Sentry back home.

“The skills and experience of Sentry crews, particularly those developed through working closely with naval assets during this deployment, will now be re-invested. The E-7 Wedgetail programme will enter service in 2023, replacing Sentry as the RAF’s Airborne Early Warning and Airborne Command & Control platform.”

Wing Commander Williams, Officer Commanding 8 Squadron

Find out more about the history of the E-3D Sentry and watch its final operational sortie👇

Find out where else the UK Armed Forces are deployed here👇




Stories from the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the UK Armed Forces around the globe.

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