Boeing and Lockheed Martin have been downselected as preferred bidders in the UK's Project Eagle competition to modernise the Royal Air Force's Boeing E-3D Sentry airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, with a final decision to be taken next year.

Each of the US airframers will lead teams to develop a prototype replacement mission system for the aircraft, part of the UK’s Project Eagle project to update the current 1970s mainframe computer architecture onboard. The technical development phase starting in April will last 15 months and is worth around £4.5 million ($8 million) to each team.

Both teams will demonstrate the systems to the UK defence ministry before a final selection is made, due mid-2007. If the upgrade goes ahead one of the two teams would win a multi-million pound contract intended to make the Sentry a hub for network-enabled operations.

 Both bids foresee replacing the E-3’s mission computing system with an open Microsoft Windows-based architecture. The winner of the competition will be selected in late 2007, with production work to begin in early 2008.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the NATO AWACS mid-term modernisation and US AWACS Block 40/45 programmes, on which its technology demonstrator is based. However, Lockheed is hoping that its history in UK electronic warfare systems integration will help its bid.  

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems will develop its proposal in its laboratory in Kent, Washington, while Lockheed Martin Systems Integration will use personnel based in Owego, New York and draw on naval systems teams based in North Harbour near Portsmouth.


Source: Flight International