Scaling back plans for a Boeing 767-400ER testbed would absorb the bulk of a $600 million budget cut proposed for the Northrop Grumman E-10A Multi-Sensor Command and Control Aircraft (MC2A) programme.

The US Air Force E-10A's back-end processing suite - Northrop Grumman's battle management command and control (BMC2) system - also would be further streamlined under the budget cut unveiled this month by US defence officials.

The testbed aircraft configuration would be substantially curtailed from the original plan for a production-representative design, says Jerry Madigan, Northrop's E-10A programme manager. Boeing would still provide the 767-400ER, but Northrop would not be tasked with several planned modifications, including adding in-flight refuelling, anti-icing and military-standard cockpit controls.

The 767-400ER would not be considered the baseline E-10A platform under the new proposal, allowing USAF officials to decide on a common widebody platform for tankers and command and control aircraft after 2008.

In addition, the BMC2 system, which has already been cut back by 40%, would see further capability reductions, says Madigan. Only systems that are focused on providing a capability against cruise missiles and moving ground targets would be retained.

The programme restructuring package is 95% complete, says Madigan. The new plan, if approved, also would push back initial operational capability by three years until 2018.

Meanwhile, momentum is building to launch a re-engining programme for the USAF's 17-strong Northrop E-8 JSTARS fleet that the E-10A is being designed to replace. The USAF still must determine whether a lease or purchase is preferred.


Source: Flight International