The US Navy has acquired a Boeing E-3D Sentry airframe recently retired by the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), with the asset to be employed as a dedicated trainer supporting its E-6B Mercury airborne communications and command post fleet.

Personnel from the navy’s PMA-271 Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office inspected the CFM International CFM56-engined E-3D in Lake Charles, Louisiana in February 2021, before completing a $15 million purchase, the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) says.

RAF E-3D Lake Charles

Source: US Navy

UK Royal Air Force asset underwent inspection in Lake Charles, Louisiana in February

The retired airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft was one of seven employed by the RAF, which flew its final operational sortie with the E-3D in the Middle East on 30 July. The service had used the 707-based surveillance aircraft since 1991.

“The [PMA-271] programme office had been looking to acquire a dedicated training aircraft for the fleet to take the strain off using the current mission-capable E-6 aircraft,” NAVAIR says. Around 600 flight hours and 2,400 landings per year are currently being logged undertaking such tasks, it adds.

US Navy E-6B

Source: US Navy

Dedicated trainer will reduce wear-and-tear on the US Navy’s 16-strong E-6B command post fleet

“The training flights expose mission aircraft to significant wear-and-tear and impact their readiness and availability,” notes PMA-271 programme manager Captain Adam Scott. “It’s a big win for the entire E-6 community,” he says of the E-3D purchase.

Following its receipt by NAVAIR, the ex-RAF aircraft will undergo a modification activity “with a goal to get it out to the fleet by October 2023”, the command says.

The USN has an active fleet of 16 E-6Bs, with Cirium fleets data showing these as aged between 30 and 36 years.

Previous acquisitions of surplus UK defence equipment by Washington have included the US Navy acquiring one Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transport for use supporting its Blue Angels aerobatic display team, and the purchase of retired BAE Systems Harrier GR9/9A ground-attack aircraft to provide spare parts for US Marine Corps Boeing AV-8B Harrier IIs.