THE FIRST BOEING 767 airborne warning and control-system (AWACS) aircraft was expected to begin a seven-month flight-test programme with a sortie from Everett, Washington, on 9 August.

The 767-27C, which is a modified extended-range -200ER, is the first of four destined for delivery to the Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF). A $200 million logistics package to support the aircraft is also being supplied by the US Department of Defense.

The aircraft is the successor to the Boeing 707, widely used as the platform, for airborne early warning, surveillance and in-flight refueling applications.

The first two will be handed over in March 1998, with the second pair following in January 1999. Boeing hopes that the Japanese may eventually order an additional four to eight aircraft. Other potential users of the 767 AWACS, dubbed the E-767 by the JASDF, include Italy, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

The first aircraft will be tested for safety of flight and handling qualities under US Federal Aviation Administration rules for a supplemental type certification (STC) under Part 25. The second aircraft is due for delivery to Everett from Boeing's Wichita site in Kansas at the end of 1996.

It will then be fitted, with a complete suite of mission equipment for system-qualification tests. The two test aircraft will operate in parallel with the aim of simultaneous certification, in the early part of 1998.

Boeing believes that it will gain an export advantage by performing initial modification work at Wichita and by certificating to commercial standards.

"It gives us a 'clean' product without Government or US Air Force involvement. It's the most efficient way and gives us latitude to move the work around if we want to for offset requirements. All this work could be sent offshore," says Jim Smith, the Boeing 767 AWACS programme manager.

One of the main priorities of the test effort will be the heavily modified electrical power-distribution/generation system. To provide sufficient electrical power for the aircraft's systems, each of the 767's General Electric CF6-80C2 engines drives two 150kVA generators in place of the standard single 90kVA unit. In addition, the auxiliary power unit also supports a fifth 90kVA generator for a total output of 690kVA.

In addition, the flight test will check flutter clearances, buffet boundaries and fuel-consumption performances, "-to check that our predictions are accurate", says Smith. Endurance at 1,850km (1,000nm) from base is expected to be 7h. The Japanese aircraft have no air-to-air-refueling capability, although "-we do have the space allocated for the plumbing if anyone needs it", according to Smith.

The initial 767 AWACS airframe was first flown from the Everett assembly site in mid-October 1994 before being flown to Wichita for extensive conversion work to be carried out. The radome strut was installed and the aircraft returned to Everett in June.

The aircraft was also displayed to a gathering of AWACS-operators in Seattle in July.

Source: Flight International