The E-3F offers France increased autonomy in terms of command, driving but also appreciation of the situation on the theater thanks to its many sensors. It captures, reorients in flight the close-range strikes and the flow of supplies in flight. It has itself an increased endurance, with its air refueling capability compatible with many types of tanker aircraft.
The Boeing relationship with France goes back to 1910, when the company’s founder, William “Bill” Boeing, traveled from Seattle to Los Angeles to attend an international air show. The star of the event was French flying ace Louis Paulhan, breaking world altitude and endurance records and demonstrating spectacular flying skills. Bill Boeing was enchanted. And, because he spoke French, he was able to chat with Paulhan and ask him about this exciting technology — flying machines. Boeing went back home to Seattle, determined to get into the airplane business.
For more than 50 years, Boeing has provided equipment to French military forces. In 1990, the Boeing Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) E-3F was chosen by France to meet its airborne surveillance and command and control requirements. This model was designed using the standard AWACS configuration together with a number of additional system improvements and is powered by GE/Snecma CFM56-2 high-efficiency, turbofan engines.
More than just a "flying radar" for controlling aircraft in a specific area, the E-3F coordinates from the air the flight of multiple air missions, such as the Combined Air Operation Center (CAOC ). . This imposing apparatus, of 100 tons empty and approximately 45 meters in length, carries a crew of 15 to 20 people according to the nature of the missions. The crew of the E-3F AWACS consists of dedicated airmen sometimes to the execution of the missions, sometimes to the implementation of the aircraft, sometimes to the maintenance of the apparatus.
The E-3F has a significant flight autonomy of about 10 hours of flight without refueling, it is often deployed directly from its parking base in mainland France. It is an important link in the National Defense, it is one of the elements that allow France to build a sovereign reading of the changing context of a theater of operations. The machine, meeting the standards of the needs of the coalition, thus works without difficulties in allied. The E-3F is also an example of interoperability.
The E-3F fleet and the personnel deploying them have participated in all operations contributing to the success of military engagements since 1992. Today, they account for more than 13,000 flight hours in operations. From Operation Serval to Salamandre , Trident , Harmattan and Chammal , Awacs continues to confirm its pivotal role in the chain of command and control of air operations over the last twenty years.
The E-3F radar aircraft of the Airborne Detection and Control Squadron (EDCA), located at Avord Air Base, are true airborne control, command and control centers. The E-3F is a Boeing 707 quad-jet engine. 47 meters long, it has a rotodome of nine tons. It is equipped with sophisticated sensors and data link means, enabling it, inter alia, to communicate with the command and control centers. These devices provide added value in the field of aircraft flying at very low altitude. With their detection system down, their sensors detect all aircraft moving within a radius of 400 km, regardless of their speed or altitude. In the manner of a lamp shade, their system highlights, through their electromagnetic beam, all the elements moving to the ground. This allows in particular to cover the areas of relief where the terrestrial radars have detection holes.
In 2010, a contract was signed to upgrade the four AWACS aircraft and the fleet’s ground system. This mid-life upgrade is modeled on the Block 40/45 program developed for the U.S. AWACS fleet. Block 40/45 greatly enhances the operational potential of network operations and augments the capacity, reliability and effective execution of missions. Air France Industries, under a contract to Boeing, performs installation and checkout at its new facility in Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle, France. Air France Industries and Boeing teams began upgrading the fleet in May 2013. The first upgraded aircraft was delivered on schedule to the French Air Force in July 2014, and a second aircraft was delivered in March 2015.
In March 2015, the E-3F modernization program reached a new milestone with the arrival at Avord's 702 airbase of the modified second plane (MLU - middle-life updated ). An experimentation phase by the airborne command and detection system (EM SDCA) team, supported by the 36 th Airborne Command and Control Wing (ESTA 15/36 "Septaine" and 36th EDCA units) "Berry"), had also started at the end of July 2014. This phase, currently being finalized, was marked by the completion of the longest flight ever made on an E-3F.
Indeed, on 01 April 2015, a detection and control aircraft took off from the BA 702 for a flight of 17 hours, with on board a reinforced crew of 24 people. A single air refueling of 45 tonnes of kerosene was performed demonstrating the strategic reach capacity of this vector. With so many hours of flight, the aircraft could have, for example, returned to its area of operation over Iraq from the mainland and provided an operational niche before resting on a Middle East base. It could also have traveled nearly 14,000 km from Avord reaching for example Darwin, Australia. The operational objective of this mission was to verify the performance of the modernized system over time as well as its ability to record and reproduce the data collected with integrity. This new stage also proves that any success is based on a complementarity of means: tanker aircraft, air traffic controllers, pilots, mechanics and support Avord air base.
This success came a few days after another remarkable event. Indeed, on March 25, 2015, 100% of the Awacs fleet took off in the morning for various commitments. A first plane deployed on an outdoor theater was requested for a mission over Iraqi territory, within the framework of Operation Chammal. A second aircraft was preparing to join the Eastern European skies as part of the reassurance measures for NATO allies before being redirected to a mission to support NATO. rescue mobilized on the scene of the dramatic crash of the Airbus of the "Germanwings". In parallel with these operational commitments, a third aircraft took off for a validation flight of its modernization by the Directorate General of Armament. Finally, the fourth plane landed at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, at the premises of Air France Industries where it in turn enters a site of major visit and modernization.
So, this morning March 25, 2015, 100% of the E-3F will have taken off, each under different commands. They will have ensured all the operational contracts while continuing the modernization of a fleet that will perpetuate the airborne command and control capability for the French armies. The entire fleet upgrade was completed by the end of 2016.
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