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E-3 Sentry (AWACS) Block 40/45 Modification

The AWACS Block 40/45 Upgrade is the largest modification in US AWACS history and represents the critical foundation and baseline system required for all future AWACS enterprise modifications including net-centric operations. The AWACS Block 40/45 Upgrade provides a single target/single track capability with an improved human-machine interface for time-critical targeting designed to increase combat effectiveness and reduce fratricide.

The AWACS Block 40/45 Upgrade includes an upgrade to Electronic Support Measures (ESM) sensor data processing; multi-source integration (MSI); a Data Link Infrastructure (DLI) with prioritized data link bandwidth management for Link 16/Link 11; new battle management tools; capability to parse, allow user access to, and integrate Air Control Order/Air Tasking Order (ACO/ATO) data; and enhanced mission and console recording capabilities.

The AWACS Block 40/45 Modification system upgrade replaces the 1970's vintage mission computer system with an open system, LAN-based architecture. It also incorporates Multi-Sensor Integration of on-board and off-board sensors into a real-time database allowing for a "single target-single track" to be displayed to the operator and transmitted to the shooter. Block 40/45 also incorporates an improved Data Link Infrastructure that decreases the latency of data link transmissions for high priority targets, thus allowing targets to be transmitted quickly to the shooter. This upgrade improves machine-to-machine interfaces that ultimately compress the kill chain timeline and postures the system to more easily integrate future modifications and support. These future modifications will support horizontal integration and network centric operations. Initial System Development and Design began in 2003.

Block 40/45 will replace the aging AWACS computer system and the operator terminals with a network of commercial off-the-shelf operator workstations linked to several commercial off-the-shelf computers. A Gigabit Ethernet Local Area Network that adds digital communications for control of the radios, and for internal communications, will connect these computers. Block 40/45 will provide theater commanders enhanced surveillance and control capabilities while contributing to information superiority needed to control the battlespace. In addition, it will improve E-3B/C reliability and availability.

Block 40/45 upgrades will enable the Air Force to incorporate several necessary improvements to AWACS functionality including multisource integration, increased electronic support measures system memory, integration of the Intelligence Broadcast System, and data link infrastructure. These improvements will be achieved through new tracking algorithms, software control of the communications subsystem, improved human-machine interfaces, and reduced data link latency. The Block upgrade, which supports continued improvements to E-3B/C information correlation functions that will enable the E-3B/C to support the Single Integrated Air Picture, will extend AWACS capabilities through the 2025-2035 timeframe.

AWACS Communications Upgrades includes: Global Broadcast Service (GBS), digital communications system, and Intelligence Broadcast System (IBS). GBS is key to increased flow of ATO, weather and other information warfare data to be received by AWACS and key to moving mission crew to ground in future. The digital communication system is part of the NATO E-3 Mid Term and can result in deleting one or two Communication Technicians from mission crew composition. It is also key to mission recording capability for training and documentation - a top ACC/DO Extend Sentry objective. The IBS will require upgrade of MATT (currently being installed) to JTT for receipt of Broadcast Intelligence. Procurement will not be complete until 2009 at a total acquisition cost of $637.1M, and production and installation of different subprograms are on different schedules.


The Integrated DAMA (Demand Assigned Multiple Access) / GATM (Global Air Traffic Management) Program seeks to make communications and navigation improvements required to meet current mandated DAMA SATCOM (Satellite Communication) and Air Traffic Control (ATC) requirements.

DAMA SATCOM is a Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS)--mandated Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) satellite communications upgrade consisting of two new UHF DAMA terminals and new Radio Frequency (RF) components, to mitigate co-site interference, replacing the two non-DAMA UHF SATCOM radios on each aircraft. The DAMA enhancements will expand user availability of severely limited DoD UHF SATCOM channels, improving the interoperability and efficiency of DoD UHF SATCOM systems.

GATM is a FAA/International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)/EUROCONTROL--mandated ATC upgrade consisting of new Very High Frequency (VHF) radios with 8.33 kHz channel spacing, Traffic-alert Collision Avoidance System (TCAS)/Mode-S Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponder and Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) capability. The ATC enhancements will permit more aircraft to fly closer together in congested airspace worldwide, particularly in European airspace. Non-compliance has already resulted in airspace restrictions and denials, impacting AWACS's ability to support worldwide response in situations requiring immediate on-scene command and control (C2) battle management.


Command & Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C2ISR) System Architecture Improvements provide timely enhancements to improve critical areas of the AWACS mission system.

Mission Capable (MC) rate improvement from Reliability, Maintainability & Availability (RM&A) analysis and development projects provide system improvements that help meet/exceed the MC rate standard of this critical C2 platform, therefore increasing airframe longevity in order to support its flight commitment to end of operational life. Such efforts focus on increasing reliability of the air vehicle, command and control, computer, sensor systems and infrastructure improvements as well as providing solutions to diminishing manufacturing sources. Efforts will also focus on insertion of new technologies with the aim of reducing maintenance man-hours

C2ISR enhancement and integration seeks to fulfill the requirements of Joint Vision 2020 as well as Aerospace Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and other Task Force Concept of Operations to meet the needs of the operator. AWACS seeks to enhance network-centric warfare capabilities with other C2ISR systems by horizontally integrating machine-to-machine interfaces into AWACS in order to digitize the kill chain. Sensor and communications improvements, such as IFF interrogator/transponder and the ability to send, receive and fuse the air (and ground) picture via data link to fighter aircraft, will be developed through rapid prototyping, modeling, simulation, and participation in live and simulated Joint exercises (e.g., Joint Combat Identification Evaluation Team (JCIET) and Joint Distributed Engineering Plant (JDEP)). Collaborative efforts with other sensor platforms through capabilities such as network-centric operations will also enhance horizontal integration efforts.

Certain near-term efforts, required by the operator to improve the timeliness and accuracy of information passed to/from fighter aircraft in the engagement zone and to provide consistent and re-playable mission data once the mission is complete, are quick reaction capabilities that can be developed & fielded to support the air war. The program includes concept exploration, technology development and demonstration efforts that support continuous improvements to C2ISR capabilities of manned & unmanned platforms, space, data links and advanced Battle Management decision tools. C2ISR continues to support and develop self-protection capabilities to enable current and future threat deterrence.

Fielding strategies provide for immediate field retrofit when able, otherwise fielding will occur in subsequent modernization programs. All programs are designed to integrate with & transition into the next C2ISR Platform. The AWACS program will coordinate with and participate in projects developing international standards (including NATO standards) to ensure joint, allied, and coalition interoperability. The E-3 served as the lead platform to support the development of the Mark XXIIA Mode 5 IFF capability carried out in PE 63742F, Combat ID Technology.

The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC) completed the IOT&E for the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Block 40/45 Modification during 2010. DOT&E and AFOTEC evaluated the system as operationally effective but not operationally suitable. Key deficiency areas included reliability and training. In addition, the Block 40/45 ground-based and deployable support systems were not available and operational testing of these elements was deferred to the FOT&E.

The E-3 Block 40/45, designated E-3G, modifications include incremental updates to the business-grade commercial mission computing systems in the aircraft, ground support systems, and application software to address diminishing manufacturing resources, correction to deficiencies identified through testing and operational use, and to add enhancements. AFOTEC used E-3G hardware version l.0 for IOT&E and version 3.0 for some FOT&E events. The Air Force has fielded both versions

Observations and emerging results from these events indicated that Block 40/45 version 3.0 with mission computing software version 11.1 has deficiencies related to multi-source track integration, maritime tracking, cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and software reliability. The Air Force halted completion of FOT&E during the Operational Test Readiness Review largely due to adverse pretest predictions provided by AFOTEC. Instead, AFOTEC was requested to observe employment during a Red Flag Exercise and provide feedback on required improvements to prepare for FOT&E.

E-3G Sentry

The commander of Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike Hostage, declared initial operational capability for the 552nd Air Control Wing's E-3G Sentry, an Airborne Warning and Control System Block 40/45 aircraft, 28 July 2014.

"This modification represents the most significant upgrade in the 35-plus year history of the E-3 AWACS and greatly enhances our crew members' ability to execute the command and control mission while providing a building block for future upgrades," said Col. Jay R. Bickley, the 552nd ACW commander.

Bickley said meeting this milestone is a testament to outstanding teamwork as evidenced with the great partnership enjoyed between the 552nd ACW, the AWACS system program office, ACC, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, or ALC, and the wing's contracting partners. Bickley praised the many members of the AWACS team who made the milestone possible, adding, "This is a great asset for U.S. command and control and a milestone we can all be proud to be a part of."

Gordon Fitzgerald, the 552nd ACW's director for requirements, said six Block 40/45 modified aircraft have been delivered to the 552nd ACW and two of the E-3G models have been successfully deployed in support of counterdrug operations. He also said the wing has Block 40/45 specific parts, support equipment and technical data on hand. The wing has completed initial training and initiated a structured plan for ongoing training. "We are confident we can deploy and support this important weapon system worldwide," Fitzgerald said.

Brig. Gen. Gene Kirkland, the Oklahoma City ALC commander, said the complex workforce is proud to be part of an important operational milestone, but there is still much left to do to give the 552nd ACW more 40/45 capable platforms.

The 552nd ACW is home to the E-3, with a majority of its AWACS aircraft being housed here and the remaining aircraft split between Kadena Air Base, Japan, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The first E-3G arrived in Southwest Asia 18 November 2105, marking the deployment of the most comprehensive modification to the weapon system in its 38-year history. The changes improve communications, computer processing power, threat tracking and other capabilities. As of November 2105, nine of the 27 E-3s assigned to the 552 ACW had received the modification and met their crew certification on the Block 40/45 systems. The entire fleet of E-3 aircraft will be upgraded by fiscal year 2020.

Based on the data collected during the 3-week cybersecurity vulnerability test, the E-3G version 3.0 and supporting Block 40/45 ground systems are highly vulnerable to cyber threats and not survivable. Block 40/45 tracking of sensed maritime objects, ships, and platforms, is less effective than the predecessor Block 30/35 aircraft, although both systems demonstrated deficiencies compared to truth data supplied by the Coast Guard.

Due to the program deficiencies and the PEO’s decision to not certify AWACS Block 40/45 as “ready for FOT&E,” AWACS Block 40/45 is delayed approximately 2 years while the program manager works to develop resolutions.

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Page last modified: 14-04-2018 18:08:28 ZULU