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E-3 Sentry (AWACS) Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP)

The AWACS Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP), referred to as "Sharpening the Eye of the Eagle," upgrades the radar capability of the AWACS. It effectively replaces equipment, some of which has been in the aircraft since they first took off more than 20 years ago, with modern radar technology. RSIP is a joint US/NATO development program that involves a major hardware and software-intensive modification to the existing radar system. When complete, the entire $1.2 billion project will have upgraded 32 US, 17 NATO and seven United Kingdom E-3 aircraft. During the spring of 1999, the first AWACS aircraft went through the RSIP Installation, and US installation of RSIP was scheduled for completion in fiscal 2004. The upgrade of all 32 operational AWACS was scheduled to be complete by February 2005. The E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System Program Office reached a major milestone by meeting the Required Assets Available [RAA] for the Radar System Improvement Program on 15 December 2000. RAA is declared when Air Force Materiel Command has provided the required aircraft, technical orders, training, spares, etc., to begin a trial period in which the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker AFB can determine if the capability is ready for combat.

RSIP enhances the operational capability of the E-3 radar electronic counter-measures, and dramatically improve the system's reliability, maintainability and availability. This hardware and software modification to the E-3 improves radar set performance providing enhanced detection of targets, with an emphasis toward those with a low radar cross section (RCS). Major advantages include: Increased range against reduced RCS targets to include cruise missiles; Improved electronic counter-counter measures (ECCM) against current threats; Improved radar system reliability and maintainability (R&M); and Improved radar control and maintenance panel (RCMP) with embedded test equipment. RSIP utilizes a Pulse Doppler Pulse Compression (PDPC) waveform, increases data sampling rates, increases range and velocity resolution, increases signal integration time, adds new signal processing algorithms to enhance detection sensitivity and unambiguous range determination, and improves radar set monitoring and control. RSIP is a huge leap forward in a variety of factors. It increases the ability to detect and track smaller targets at greater distances, akin to giving the radar a set of binoculars. It also improves the reliability and maintainability for the radar hardware, which decreases the number of spares and amount of down time needed for repairs. Improved control and processing algorithms tailored to current threat data enhances system electronic counter-countermeasure (ECCM) capabilities. The improved electronic counter-counter measures mean it will be much more difficult for enemy forces to deceive or "jam" the AWACS with false electronic signals.

The USAF RSIP IOT&E started its first sortie on August 3, 1995, but it was suspended when a major mishap damaged the radar components. Initial findings indicate that the failure was caused by a non-RSIP component but that the redesigned RSIP radar subsystem software had overridden safeguards. The radar was repaired, the software was modified, and IOT&E resumed with the first sortie successfully completed on October 12, 1995. The scheduled six-sortie IOT&E using Test System 3 was suspended because of deficiencies observed during the IOT&E. IOT&E again resumed in August 1996 and has been completed.

ESC's Program Office and Tinker's E-3 System Support Division at the Oklahoma City Air Logistic Center worked closely with Boeing, the prime contractor, and with Northrop Grumman, which designed and manufactured both the radar hardware and software. All the needed parts were produced and compiled into upgrade kits. Once the kits are delivered, it is up to the Aircraft Directorate Production Division of OC-ALC to actually install the equipment into the aircraft. When an aircraft is ready to be modified, the wing at Tinker pulls the aircraft off the flying schedule and sends it over to the depot side of the base. Once in the shop, the directorate's crew of avionics, electrical and sheet metal mechanics begin the 4,500 man-hour modification process. When complete, the aircraft is handed back to the wing for some final testing and then back into the operational schedule. Although the work is done at Tinker, some of the circuit cards installed during the aircraft modification actually come from non-RSIP spare parts that have been modified by the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB, using something called BOP, or "bag-o-parts." The BOP is a kit of new resistors, wire, clips and other elements needed to modify a circuit card.

On 24 May 2001 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale for the manufacture and integration of USAF/NATO Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) modification kits for installation in the French E-3F AWACS aircraft fleet. The estimated cost was $190 million. The program included four RSIP modification kits, modification kit installation, system integration and ground/flight testing of the RSIP hardware, an RSIP modification kit for installation in a ground based support facility, system software development and installation, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and technical services, and other related program elements to ensure desired radar system performance.

In June 2005 the French Air Force declared the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of its newly modernized French E-3F Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft. The AWACS Airborne Early Warning and Control Group's International French Team successfully managed this five-plus-year modernization effort. The team completed the Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) kit integration ahead of schedule and on budget, according to Bob Paradiso, the team's leader. The Boeing Company, the system's prime contractor, along with their major subcontractors Northrop Grumman and Air France, had completed the RSIP modification for two of four French AWACS aircraft. The RSIP modification upgraded the radar's antenna, receivers, and transmitters and replaces the surveillance radar's existing computer with a new high-reliability multi-processor. It also improved the radar's electronic counter-countermeasures capability. The modification will also improve the plane's surveillance capability by increasing the precision of the pulse Doppler radar and will provide significantly improved detection and tracking of small targets.

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