Avionics upgrade by Boeing for NATO & U.S. AWACS fleet worth $368 million

SEATTLE. U.S. Air Force and NATO officials tasked Boeing to create a new design for modernizing the avionics and flight deck of the U.S. and NATO E-3 707 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft fleet – under a $368 million contract.

Under the contract, Boeing engineers will integrate existing and new avionics and communications systems; develop a design for installing new equipment; upgrade one aircraft for each particular AWACS fleet; flight-test all new systems; develop logistics support data; and then train flight crews and maintenance personnel.

The modernized flight deck will have five main glass displays, which provide the pilots with user-friendly and customizable navigation, engine, and radar information. The AWACS avionics upgrade also provides cost savings regarding personnel, reducing the flight deck crew from four to three.

Rockwell Collins engineers will provide the flight management system suite, such as glass displays and flight-management and air-data computers. Other suppliers include Telephonics in New York, Thales in Belgium, EMS in Canada, and Raytheon in Maryland.

Upgrading from and analog to a digital flight deck will allow the NATO and U.S. AWACS fleets to meet present and future air traffic management (ATM) requirements worldwide, says Jon Hunsberger, Boeing AWACS program manager. It should also enable technology growth and solve issues related to flight avionics diminishing manufacturing sources, he adds.

This is second phase of a U.S. Air Force and NATO cooperative program. The initial phase saw subsystem requirements reviews completed in March. Officials at the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., awarded the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) contract.

Installation is scheduled to start with the NATO AWACS aircraft at a Boeing facility in Seattle in the Fall of 2013. Modifications for the U.S. AWACS aircraft will begin in 2014. Both are expected to be completed by the end of 2015. Production contracts will be awarded for the remaining aircraft later.

The flight deck upgrade is slated to be the latest enhancement to the AWACS fleets. Under the current U.S. fleet Block 40/45 program, Boeing engineers are providing installation support, ship-set hardware, Production Qualification Testing, logistics support, and training equipment development. Block 40-45 enhancements include an open architecture for software upgrades, new displays, computers, and advanced battle management tools. A Boeing-led team finished a mission system upgrade for the NATO fleet back in 2008 as part of the $1.32 billion Mid-Term Modernization program.