Boeing has begun flight testing the mission system for the latest Block 40/45 upgrade of the US Air Force’s E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

The 7h flight from Boeing Field in Seattle on 5 April launched a 62-flight programme to test the improved navigation, communications, radar and mission computing systems.

The Test System 3 (TS-3) aircraft used by Boeing for all AWACS development testing has been outfitted with the new mission computer hardware and software, upgraded Northrop Grumman radar and other systems.


Block 40/45 is the largest upgrade in the 20-year history of AWACS, and designed to enhance mission system automation, improve the operator interface, increase reliability and reduce life-cycle costs

Initial operational capability with five upgraded AWACS is scheduled for 2013. Depending on funding, the Block 40/45 upgrades will be installed on the entire US fleet of 32 E-3s by 2016 or 2017.