First Upgraded NATO AWACS

Technicians recently completed digital cockpit upgrades to the first NATO E-3A AWACS under a joint Air Force and Alliance engineering and development project, officials announced. The aircraft’s acceptance test flights were originally scheduled for last November, but were bumped to mid-January, according to a NATO E-3A Component online posting. The Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation (DRAGON) program replaces the E-3’s analog cockpit with digital displays, new identification friend or foe, and upgraded weather radar. The Air Force and NATO are cooperating on the development stage of the program, but plan to issue separate production contracts. The first Alliance aircraft arrived for upgrades in Seattle, Wash., in August 2013, making its first post-upgrade flight Dec. 31, 2014. NATO expects the aircraft to be redelivered in 2016, and fleet-wide upgrades to be completed by 2018, according to a release.