Two teams expected to compete for contract to make E-3D a network-enabled hub

Bids for a major modernisation of the UK Royal Air Force’s Boeing E-3D Sentry airborne early warning fleet are due to be submitted by the end of this month. Two teams are expected to receive competitive demonstration contracts leading to the selection of a winner to begin the upgrade in 2008.

The modernisation is intended to make the Sentry a hub for network-enabled operations.

France is also planning to begin an E-3 fleet upgrade in 2008, but will pursue a sole-source strategy, while the UK’s Project Eagle is competitive, says Ed Froese, Boeing airborne warning systems vice-president.

Both projects are based on the NATO Mid-Term E-3 upgrade and US Air Force AWACS Block 40/45 update programmes now under way. Both current efforts replace the E-3’s 1970s-vintage mainframe-based mission computing system with an open PC-based architecture, providing the foundation for future battle management enhancements.

Froese says the more recent Block 40/45 enhancement is the basis of the upgrades being offered to the UK and France.

The first NATO aircraft to be upgraded has completed development testing and entered operational evaluation in Europe on 24 August, with completion scheduled for 21 October. Plans call for the alliance’s remaining 17 aircraft to be upgraded by EADS in Manching, Germany by 2008.

Flight testing of the USAF’s Block 40/45 upgrade begins early next year using the Test System 3 aircraft, with production to begin in 2008. An initial operational capability with five aircraft is planned for 2010, with all 32 of the service’s E-3s to be upgraded by 2016.

Elements shared by the NATO and USAF upgrades include the open-architecture mission computing system, Windows-based operator displays, improved tracking and onboard/offboard sensor fusion, better Link 16 datalink management and new battle management tools.


Source: Flight International