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First aircraft in phase one of block 40/45 modification completed ahead of schedule

by Brandice J. O'Brien
72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

5/25/2011 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFNS) -- Phase one of the low-rate initial production of the block 40/45 modification project was finished on the first AWACS May 17, 30 days ahead of schedule.

The block 40/45 modification is a $2.9-billion initiative to upgrade the computer system, ground systems and infrastructure. Replacing the aircraft's physical computer equipment began in November in conjunction with routine programmed depot maintenance.

Approximately 300 attendees from the 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, E-3 Sentry System Program Office, Electronic Systems Center and Boeing attended the ceremony.

"I've got one word for you and that's 'teamwork,'" said Maj. Gen. P. David Gillett Jr., the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center commander. "Without all the cogs in the wheel -- the 76th MXW, E-3 System Program Office, Electronic Systems Center and Boeing -- all pulling on the rope, we wouldn't have gotten as far as we have. Thanks for the teamwork."

"Thank you for letting us share in the day you've created here," said Col. Cedric George, the 76th MXW commander. "We are extremely proud of you. It took teamwork to get you here today, and it will take teamwork as you push forward to the difficult phase of software integration and now functional checks. I have every reason to believe you'll be equally successful."

Block 40/45 replaces the internal 1970s equipment with commercial off-the-shelf Ethernet/local area network, similar to modern-day office equipment. The first aircraft to be worked is 82-007, a 27-year-old E-3 Sentry.

"The men and women of the 566th AMXS have proven themselves once again," said Bruno Morf, the 566th AMXS director. "Although we have just completed the physical installation of the modification, our team has delivered this aircraft to the functional checkout phase 30 days ahead of what has been referred to as unfeasible, when combining a (programmed depot maintenance) schedule with a modification installation the size of block 40/45."

Tom Ramsey, the E-3 System Program manager, said he was initially one of the doubters, preferring to take the less risky option, which wouldn't combine block 40/45 work with PDM. But now that has changed.

"I have to admit, I was one of those who was always cautious, but I am truly, truly amazed by how the entire E-3 enterprise has pulled together to get that aircraft out here a month early," Mr. Ramsey said.

Following the brief ceremony, guests were invited to walk through the aircraft to see the difference for themselves.

"It's awesome," said David Cook, 566 AMXS planning lead for the E-3. "Look at it; it's the most beautiful plane here. It's like a commercial jet -- new and clean. Tinker and Boeing (officials) have taken this concept from drawing board to a usable platform that will take the E-3 well into the future to keep supporting the war fighting effort. The professionalism displayed throughout the initial preparation and following installation is second to none."


"It's nice to see something tangible for all the hard work," said Lora Bettis, the Depot Supply Chain Management logistics officer with the 848th Supply Chain Management Group. "It was a massive improvement and it being done early makes it all worth it."

Only six aircraft are currently approved to undergo the modification, which is a standard practice in the Department of Defense. Upon completion of the low-rate initial production the system's performance will be reviewed, kinks will be sorted out and a full-rate production decision will be pursued in late 2012 to finish the remaining 25 aircraft of the fleet.

The last of the six aircraft are scheduked to be finished in 2014. Members of the 552nd Air Control Wing will perform an initial operational test and evaluation from March to June 2012. The last of the remaining 25 aircraft is expected to roll off the line in 2020.

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