London, Dec 1 : The hunt for dreaded Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders has got a shot in the arm with a top secret British spy plane, which can spot a man on the ground through clouds from seven miles, reportedly hovering over the skies in southern Afghanistan.
According to a report in The Sun, the plane is known as The Sentinel R1, and is a part of the British Royal Air Force (RAF).
The Sentinel is operated by a crew of five, two image interpreters, a mission commander, a pilot and co-pilot, and can fly for nine hours without having to refuel.
The plane has a sophisticated radar system, which makes it the most advanced surveillance aircraft in the world.
High-definition images are beamed to troops' monitors on the ground, meaning they can see over the far side of hills, compounds and towns to check for enemy fighters.
The pictures they receive are moving and in real time. The capability will also prove a vital new weapon in the hunt for al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, as the plane's high altitude and long range mean its sensors can look into deep valleys where insurgents often go undetected.
Operators can also follow high-value targets on motorcycles and 4x4s until jets or unmanned drones can take them out. The radar can sweep an area more than 200 miles long and wide. But as the jet is flown at an altitude of 40,000 feet, it is invisible and inaudible from the ground, and out of reach of surface-to-air missiles.