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E-3 Sentry (AWACS) Upgrades

All E-3 AWACS undergo a four year Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) cycle. PDM is accomplished on a cyclic calendar basis to correct defects that have been identified as non-correctable by any one modification and are expected to re-occur throughout the life of the weapon system. PDM items generally range from a complete remove or replace to inspect and rework as necessary. The completion of PDM keeps aircraft structurally sound and airworthy. 2018 is last year of E-3 modifications with all but 5 aircraft retired in 2025.

In October 1994, the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC), in partnership with the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center (ESC), initiated Extend Sentry, a program to upgrade and extend the life of the US E-3 AWACS fleet through the year 2025. The concept is to fix/replace aircraft systems that are most responsible for high failure rates, high abort rates, high code 3 rates, PDM days, large numbers of maintenance man-hours, and/or have a chronic negative impact on operational capability. The ACC funding strategy has been to prioritize the 66 selected projects (ranging in cost from $300K to $120M) in order of most benefit for dollar spent toward the objective. The FY98 ACC POM applied a "knee of the curve" analysis to determine a minimum funding level.

Extend Sentry is a series of over 100 separate projects that will upgrade all components of the AWACS, from software to the aircraft itself. Extend Sentry breaks down the components of the E-3 and its mission systems into nine separate groups which affect all areas of combat identification and mission performance. It directly addresses such critical issues as repair and maintenance timelines and problems, obsolete parts and lack of suppliers for key components of the system. Most of the components on the E-3 are of 1970's design and have outlived their useful life. In 1995, Boeing was awarded a contract to perform Extend Sentry work, valued at more than $400 million through the year 2000. The contract provided for implementation of 75 of the 138 projects identified under Extend Sentry. Additional prioritized projects would be implemented as funding becomes available.

Two-thirds of the US fleet were equipped with the Westinghouse AN/APY-1 surveillance radar, while the other E-3s from No. 25 onwards and all export E-3s were equipped with the second generation AN/APY-2 radar. The APY-1 and -2 are generally similar, apart from the APY-2's full maritime search capability. Operating within the 10 cm wavelength band, the maritime capable radars are reported to have six operating modes together with a radar technician-controlled test and maintenance format. The availability of installed spare memory improves software supportability. Spare memory permits the incorporation of enhancements and the correction of latent deficiencies. The effect of spare memory on supportability was calculated for the E-3 AWACS where two similar radars were delivered with 9% spare and 34% spare memory, respectively for the APY-1 and the APY-2. Measurements revealed a 3 to 1 difference in cost and schedule impact when making the same change to both E-3 radars.

Other Upgrades

The Training, Support, and Infrastructure programs cover an array of cross cutting programs and activities in support of AWACS modification and enhancement programs. These programs include managing the AWACS developmental infrastructure, support equipment development, modernization planning/analysis, and trainer/simulator integration and concurrency. The Radar Systems Integration Lab/Software Development Facility must be maintained, operated and supported by contract to provide customers with a functioning APY 1/2 radar configuration in support of AWACS radar development, production and sustainment support equipment technologies and test strategies to ensure concurrent capability to sustain current, modified and upgraded E-3 equipment. Trainer/simulator concurrency analysis and definition is required to ensure trainers and simulators are kept current with the AWACS baseline. Associate contractor agreements are used to establish concurrency between prime integrators and training service providers.

The E-3 AWACS testbed aircraft, Test System 3 (TS-3, tail number 73-1674) and the Avionics Integration Laboratory (AIL) are Government owned/contractor managed, maintained and operated assets. These test-ready assets support AWACS modernization, including advanced projects and sustainment projects, and allow AWACS to participate in live-fly (e.g., Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment) and ground-based interoperability testing through the Joint Distributed Engineering Plant (JDEP) configured AIL. They also support multiple international Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) projects on a fee basis, including French, RSAF, UK, Japan, and NATO.

NAVWAR (Navigation Warfare) is mandated by CJCSI 6140.01A (31 March 2004) and requires all DoD GPS users to incorporate NSA Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM), make provisions for the transition to 'black keys', eliminate requirements to acquire GPS satellites using the civil signal (Coarse Acquisition (C/A code)) and incorporate new technology into the navigation sensor.

AMP (Avionics Modernization Program) completes the FAA/International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)/EUROCONTROL mandated air traffic control system upgrades and equips the E-3 fleet with flight deck and other avionics capabilities that will allow AWACS to comply with mandated global Required Navigation Performance (RNP), surveillance and communication standards. Non-compliance will result in airspace restrictions and denials that will impact AWACS ability to support worldwide responses to situations requiring immediate on-scene command and control (C2 battle management). The AMP modifications to the flight deck include the addition of data link communications, upgrade or replacement of emergency locating technologies, voice and data link digital radios, improved visual displays and flight management system, as well as automatic position reporting via data link. Replacement of critical avionics subsystems, unsustainable beyond 2010, will be included in the AMP.

Communication projects provide the AWACS system with an effective method for electronically transmitting and receiving critical mission information such as the Air Tasking Order (ATO). Comm projects will focus on engineering and retrofitting the entire fleet.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:29:35 ZULU