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Saudi completes radar upgrade for AWACS fleet

24 May 2017
Saudi Arabia has five Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft, all of which have now gone through the Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP). Source: Boeing

The final Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft has now completed its major radar upgrade, the manufacturer Boeing announced on 23 May.

The last of five RSAF E-3As has completed the Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) that has already been rolled out for other operators of the type, with the work having been carried out on the first aircraft by Boeing in Seattle and on the remainder by the Boeing-owned Alsalam Aerospace Industries in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

"The modernised software, multiple radar nodes, and overall enhanced operation make this the most significant upgrade to the AWACS radar since it was developed in the 1970s," Keith Burns, Saudi AWACS programs manager for Boeing was quoted as saying.

As noted by Boeing, RSIP comprises a new radar computer, a radar control maintenance panel, and electrical and mechanical software and hardware. These, the company said, should improve the overall capabilities of the AN/APY-2 radar to track targets at the same time as increasing its reliability. The RSIP kit is built by Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems and has already been installed on US Air Force, UK Royal Air Force, NATO, and French Air Force AWACS fleets.

Boeing delivered Saudi Arabia's AWACS aircraft between June 1986 and September 1987. With the Saudi RSIP programme now complete, the Kingdom is understood to have plans to put its E-3A fleet through the same Block 40/45 upgrade as that rolled out for the US and French air forces. The Block 40/45 is essentially a mission computing systems upgrade that covers hardware, in the form of a new suite of current state-of-the-art flat-screen computers, as well as the necessary software. This takes the aircraft very much into a Windows type of environment, enhancing the system's networking capability while improving the aircraft's reliability and lowering life-cycle costs.

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