Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

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Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

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Introduction
The Boeing E-3 Sentry, commonly known as AWACS, is an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft developed by Boeing as the prime contractor. Derived from the Boeing 707, it provides all-weather surveillance, command, control and communications, and is used by the United States Air Force (USAF), NATO, Royal Air Force (RAF), French Air Force and Royal Saudi Air Force. The E-3 is distinguished by the distinctive rotating radar dome above the fuselage. Production ended in 1992 after 68 aircraft had been built.

In the mid-1960s, the USAF was seeking an aircraft to replace its piston-engined Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star, which had seen service for over a decade. After issuing preliminary development contracts to three companies, the USAF picked Boeing to construct two airframes to test Westinghouse Electric's and Hughes's competing radars. Both radars used Pulse-Doppler technology, with Westinghouse's design emerging as the contract winner. Col. Emmett Virgil Conkling, who was an early participant in radar development in England prior to the official U.S. entry into WWII, retired from his position with the Air Force in the Pentagon and took the position of head of development in Seattle. Testing on the first production E-3 began in October 1975.

The first USAF E-3 was delivered in March 1977, and during the next seven years, a total of 34 aircraft were manufactured. NATO, as a single identity, also had eighteen aircraft manufactured, basing them in Germany. The E-3 was also sold to the United Kingdom (seven) and France (four) and Saudi Arabia (five, plus eight E-3 derived tanker aircraft). In 1991, by which time the last aircraft had been delivered, E-3s participated in Operation Desert Storm, playing a crucial role of directing Coalition aircraft against the enemy. Throughout the aircraft's service life, numerous upgrades were performed to enhance its capabilities. In 1996, Westinghouse Electric was acquired by Northrop before being renamed Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, which currently supports the E-3's radar.

Overview
The E-3 Sentry's airframe is a modified Boeing 707-320B Advanced model. USAF and NATO E-3s have an unrefuelled range of some 4,000 mi (6,400 km) or eight hours of flying. The newer E-3 versions bought by France, Saudi Arabia and the UK are equipped with newer CFM56-2 turbofan engines, and these can fly for about 11 hours or about 5,000 mi (8,000 km). The Sentry's range and on-station time can be increased through air-to-air refuelling and the crews can work in shifts by the use of an on-board crew rest and meals area.

When deployed, the E-3 monitors an assigned area of the battlefield and provides information for commanders of air operations to gain and maintain control of the battle; whilst as an air defence asset, E-3s can detect, identify and track airborne enemy forces far from the boundaries of the U.S. or NATO countries and can direct fighter-interceptor aircraft to these targets. In support of air-to-ground operations, the E-3 can provide direct information needed for interdiction, reconnaissance, airlift and close-air support for friendly ground forces.

Avionics
The unpressurised rotodome is 30 feet (9.1 m) in diameter, six feet (1.8 m) thick at the centre, and is held 11 feet (3.4 m) above the fuselage by two struts. It is tilted down at the front to reduce its air drag during take-off, and while flying endurance speed (which is corrected electronically by both the radar and SSR antenna phase shifters). The dome uses both bleed air and cooling doors to remove the heat generated by electronic and mechanical equipment. The hydraulically rotated antenna system permits the Westinghouse Corporation's AN/APY-1 and AN/APY-2 passive electronically scanned array radar system to provide surveillance from the Earth's surface up into the stratosphere, over land or water.

Other major subsystems in the E-3 Sentry are navigation, communications, and computers. Consoles display computer-processed data in graphic and tabular format on video screens. Console operators perform surveillance, identification, weapons control, battle management and communications functions. The radar and computer subsystems on the E-3 can gather and present broad and detailed battlefield information. This includes position and tracking information on enemy aircraft and ships, and location and status of friendly aircraft and naval vessels. The information can be sent to major command and control centres in rear areas or aboard ships.

Electrical generators mounted on each of the E-3's four engines provide the one megawatt of electrical power that is required by the E-3's radars and other electronics. Its pulse-Doppler radar (PD) has a range of more than 250 mi (400 km) for low-flying targets at its operating altitude, and the pulse (BTH) radar has a range of approximately 400 mi (650 km) for aircraft flying at medium to high altitudes. The radar combined with a secondary surveillance radar to provide a look down to detect, identify and track enemy and friendly low-flying aircraft while eliminating ground clutter (radar) returns.

Upgrades
Starting in 1987, USAF E-3s were upgraded under the "Block 30/35 Modification Program" to enhance the E-3's capabilities. On 30 October 2001, final airframe to be upgraded under this program was rolled out. Several major enhancements were made, firstly the installation of electronic support measures (ESM) and an electronic surveillance capability, for both active and passive means of detection. The Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) provides rapid and secure communication for transmitting information, including target positions and identification data, to other friendly platforms. Global Positioning System (GPS) capability was also added. On-board computers were also overhauled to accommodate JTIDS, Link-16, the new ESM systems and to provide for future enhancements.

The Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) was a joint US/NATO development program. RSIP enhances the operational capability of the E-3 radars' electronic countermeasures, and dramatically improve the system's reliability, maintainability, and availability. Essentially, this program replaced the older transistor-transistor logic (TTL) and emitter-coupled logic (MECL) electronic components, long-since out of production, with off-the-shelf digital computers that utilised a High-level programming language instead of assembly language. Significant improvement came from replacing the old 8-bit FFT with 24-bit FFTs, and the 12-bit A/D (Sign + 12-bits) with a 15-bit A/D (Sign + 15-bits).[8] These hardware and software modifications improve the E-3 radars' performance, providing enhanced detection with an emphasis towards low radar cross-section (RCS) targets.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) had also joined the USAF in adding RSIP to upgrade the E-3's radars. The retrofitting of the E-3 squadrons were completed in December 2000. Along with the RSIP upgrade was installation of the Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems which dramatically improve positioning accuracy. In 2002, Boeing was awarded a contract to add RSIP to the small French AWACS squadron. Installation was completed in 2006.

Operational history
In March 1977 the 552nd Airborne Warning and Control Wing (now the 552d Air Control Wing) at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma received the first E-3 aircraft. The 34th and last USAF Sentry was delivered in June 1984. In March 1996, the USAF activated the 513th Air Control Group (513 ACG), an ACC-gained Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) AWACS unit under the Reserve Associate Program. Collocated with the 552 ACW at Tinker AFB, the 513 ACG which performs similar duties on active duty E-3 aircraft shared with the 552 ACW.

The USAF have a total of thirty-one E-3s in active service. Twenty-seven are stationed at Tinker AFB and belong to the Air Combat Command (ACC). Four are assigned to the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) and stationed at Kadena AB, Okinawa and Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. One aircraft (TS-3) was assigned to Boeing for testing and development (retired/scrapped June 2012).

In 1977 Iran placed an order for ten E-3's, however this order was cancelled following the 1979 revolution.

NATO acquired 18 E-3As and support equipment for a NATO air defence force. Since all aircraft must be registered with a certain country, the decision was made to register the 18 NATO Sentries with Luxembourg, a NATO member that previously did not have any air force. The first NATO E-3 was delivered in January 1982. The eighteen E-3s were operated by Number 1, 2 and 3 Squadrons of NATO's E-3 Component, based at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen. Presently 17 NATO E-3As are in the inventory, since one E-3 was lost in a crash.

The United Kingdom and France are not part of the NATO E-3A Component, instead procuring E-3 aircraft through a joint project. The UK and France operate their E-3 aircraft independently of each other and of NATO. The UK operates six aircraft (with a seventh now retired) and France operates four aircraft, all fitted with the newer CFM56-2 engines. The British requirement came about following the cancellation of the British Aerospace Nimrod AEW3 project to replace the Avro Shackleton AEW2 during the 1980s. The UK E-3 order was placed in February 1987, with deliveries starting in 1990. The other operator of the type, delivered between June 1986 and September 1987, is Saudi Arabia which operates five aircraft, all fitted with CFM56-2 engines, This particular sale was hotly contested between the Reagan administration and opponents of the sale

E-3 Sentry aircraft were among the first to deploy during Operation Desert Shield, where they immediately established as an around-the-clock radar screen to defend against Iraqi forces. During Operation Desert Storm, E-3s flew 379 missions and logged 5,052 hours of on-station time. The data collection capability of the E-3 radar and computer subsystems allowed an entire air war to be recorded for the first time in history. In addition to providing senior leadership with time-critical information on the actions of enemy forces, E-3 controllers assisted in 38 of the 41 air-to-air kills recorded during the conflict. NATO and RAF E-3s participated in the international military operation in Libya.

On 27 January 2015, the RAF deployed an E-3D Sentry to Cyprus in support of U.S.-led coalition air-strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. The Sentry joins RAF Panavia Tornado, MQ-9 Reaper, and AirTanker Voyager aircraft performing or supporting almost daily strikes against militants.

United Kingdom
The Royal Air Force purchased seven E-3Ds by October 1987. Six are operational and one is used for training. The aircraft are designated Sentry AEW.1.
No. 8 Squadron
No. 23 Squadron – (disbanded in 2009)
No. 54 Squadron

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

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Answers one of the big question marks from the review. Good news.
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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

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UK Commits AWACS Aircraft to NATO's Mission to Counter Russia
The UK is to commit one of its Boeing E-3D Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft to NATO as part of a wider ramping up of measures set to counter Russian military activity along the alliance's eastern flank.

The detachment, which was announced by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) at the end of April, will see one of the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) six E-3Ds seconded to the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force for airborne surveillance duties over Eastern Europe.
Read More: http://www.janes.com/article/60021/uk-c ... ter-russia

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by ArmChairCivvy »

UK specific project "Eagle" was canned; I wonder if these upgrades will have similar aims?

"UK to begin upgrades to @BoeingDefense E-3D #AWACS in 2020"
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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

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Hopefully its to bring the RAF's into line with the UASF's. Its a long time since I was at Waddington, but even then the E3 was falling behind.
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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by bobp »

Northrop signs a nine year extension to its AWACC maintenance deal,
http://www.defensenews.com/articles/nor ... ntry-fleet


The Sentry aircraft were originally scheduled to be retired from RAF service in 2025, but that date was pushed back 10 years in last November’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.

A much needed update of the platform is expected to get underway by around 2020. An original scheme, known as Project Eagle, was abandoned in 2009 due to defense budget cuts.

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by LordJim »

Yet another announcement regarding defence for a programme years away. This should actually be a priority for the RAF as the E-3Ds are the oldest variants still flying. Why can't they free up some UOR funds using the ongoing operations in Syria as the reason, and get this programme moving now!

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

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LordJim wrote:Yet another announcement regarding defence for a programme years away. This should actually be a priority for the RAF as the E-3Ds are the oldest variants still flying. Why can't they free up some UOR funds using the ongoing operations in Syria as the reason, and get this programme moving now!

treasury rules I would suggest

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by ArmChairCivvy »

Fleet too busy to accommodate any one of the six to be taken "down to parts" for the upgrades?
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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by Little J »

What about number 7? Is it still (near) flight worthy or have they nicked so much off of it that you may as well scrap it?

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by Gabriele »

Little J wrote:What about number 7? Is it still (near) flight worthy or have they nicked so much off of it that you may as well scrap it?
I don't think it'll ever fly again.

Also, at the moment, none of the Sentry are flying, because of wiring issues that need correcting: http://www.defensenews.com/articles/raf ... r-on-guard
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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by bobp »

The entire fleet of UK Sentry's has been out of service for some months due to serious wiring issues, and problems with the cabin conditioning system. The first of the repaired aircraft has now begun initial flight trials following repair. Full story here:
http://www.defensenews.com/articles/uk- ... st-repairs

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

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UK Sentries return to operations........ http://www.janes.com/article/66918/uk-s ... -grounding

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by marktigger »

are the sentries going to be updated?

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by shark bait »

yep, and it cant come soon enough, being well behind the french and Americans now. Upgrades in the early 20's to extend life out to 2035.

It's a big project too, because its been left so long it a £billion+ programme, which still doesn't bring us up to state of the art, the USN still have a greater capability organically deployed with the carriers.

More crews for the AWACS too, not sure where their coming from though.
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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by Tinman »

shark bait wrote:yep, and it cant come soon enough, being well behind the french and Americans now. Upgrades in the early 20's to extend life out to 2035.

It's a big project too, because its been left so long it a £billion+ programme, which still doesn't bring us up to state of the art, the USN still have a greater capability organically deployed with the carriers.

More crews for the AWACS too, not sure where their coming from though.
Well behind the french and americans? USN with the E2C/D have a greater capability?

Your credibility is seriously coming into question, using guesswork, opinions based on "guesses" etc, you show on numerous threads that everything in the British Armed forces is bad, with out say how, why etc.

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

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Not guesses, our AWACS has not been upgraded, where others have. The RAF's fleet is 10 years behind the Americans.
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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by marktigger »

why did we need to upgrade them in the 2000's the taliban didn't have aircraft!

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by RichardIC »

The C in AWACS stands for "control". There was plenty of that to be done in a campaign hugely dependent on close air support, MERT etc etc...

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by LordJim »

Usual issues, need to balance in year budget so push programmes not deemed urgent back and back and back and then the increased cost of actually dealing with the problem bites you in the ass.

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by shark bait »

With the RUSI saying the upgrade is "estimated to cost at least £2 billion", that does beg the question are we better off buying new?
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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by abc123 »

shark bait wrote:With the RUSI saying the upgrade is "estimated to cost at least £2 billion", that does beg the question are we better off buying new?

Agreed. If that's the cost, then better buy new one...
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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by RetroSicotte »

http://www.janes.com/article/80167/raf- ... eplacement

A replacement being "cheaper" sounds like a great way to start off a pitch of "This new one is more effective, so we only need to buy 5 of them."

Almost guaranteed to be the case, rather than just doing the right thing.

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Re: Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 (AWACS) (RAF)

Post by topman »

I'm fairness in the case of sentry it's true.

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