Number 39 (1 PRU) Squadron is the only remaining Canberra squadron in service with the RAF and is based at RAF Marham, in Norfolk. Its role in peacetime is photographic and electro-optical reconnaissance, strategic air reconnaissance to meet overseas intelligence requirements, aerial surveys within the UK and overseas, and occasional low-level tasks. In transition to war, the role becomes medium-level, high-level and long-range oblique imagery capture in support of UK or Coalition Operations. To achieve its task, the Squadron operates four Canberra PR9 (Photographic Reconnaissance) aircraft.
The PR9 was the final development of the Canberra airframe and first entered service with No 39 Squadron in October 1962. Sensors and navigation equipment have since been updated, but the engines and airframe remain essentially the same.
Currently, the aircraft sensor-fit includes a survey camera, a panoramic camera and a long-range electrooptical camera. The survey camera is used mainly to produce vertical images on 9-inch square negatives for mapping purposes. The panoramic camera, which can be directed to any position from the horizon to the vertical, produces a swathe of negatives giving an oblique image of a target. The electro-optical camera can produce only oblique images, but the imagery can be highly magnified and transmitted to ground stations via an on-board datalink.
In addition to the sensor platform updates, the PR9 has a much-enhanced navigation suite and, to improve survival in operational theatres, it has been fitted with a Skyguardian Radar Warning Receiver, and an Electronic Protective Measures suite, which dispenses chaff and Infrared decoy flares from packs mounted internally in the underside of the wings. During its earlier life, the PR9 had a low-level and medium-level night reconnaissance role using Infrared Line Scan equipment, but its current role is restricted to daytime reconnaissance.
With a pilot and weapons systems officer crew, the aircraft regularly operates at heights above 40,000ft and can remain airborne for up to 41/2 hours, although it cannot be refuelled in the air. The Squadron recently saw operational service over Afghanistan and Iraq and has continued to provide surveillance and survey imagery of Kosovo and the Balkans over the last six years.
Canberra PR9 Aircraft Specifications
Powerplant: Two Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 206 turbofans
Thrust: 11,250lbs (each)
Wing span: 20.66m (67ft 10ins)
Length: 20.36m (66ft 10ins)
Height: 4.75m (15ft 7ins)
Max T/O weight: 24,227kg (53,300lbs)
Max speed: 450kts (520mph)
Max altitude: 48,000ft
• In service since 1962, but has received modern sensor updates.
• Used for photographic and electro-optical reconnaissance and aerial surveys.
• Provides medium-level, high-level and longrange oblique imagery in wartime.
• Sensors include survey, panoramic and longrange electro-optical cameras.
• Used only in the daytime reconnaissance role.