Not Your Dad’s AWACS

The mission components for the Air Force’s E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft will be undergoing the most significant modifications since the aircraft’s deployment in the 1970s, according to Ed Froese. The Boeing official told reporters Tuesday at the AFA conference that when the E-3 “first came out … there was a lot more air to air combat.” Mission scenarios are different today and that has set the tone for the Block 40/45 upgrade, which is set to begin flight tests in 2006. The improvements include Link 16 integration; upgrades to electronic support measures (passive detection), radar, and identification, friend or foe systems; and addition of open mission computing systems, which run either on a Windows or Linux platform, making future upgrades more easy. Boeing expects to begin modifying the E-3 fleet in 2008, with the initial five to be delivered by 2010. The company plans to complete upgrades to the entire fleet of 32 aircraft by 2016.