C4iSR: Air

US Air Force awards Boeing contract for AWACS avionics upgrade

14 December 2017
The USAF on 7 December awarded Boeing a contract to upgrade the avionics of its Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft. Source: Boeing

The US Air Force (USAF) on 7 December awarded Boeing a USD46 million contract modification to upgrade the avionics in its Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, according to a Pentagon statement.

The contract modification is a firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee deal. It will definitise the undefinitised contract action line numbers and award the remaining effort not associated for low-rate initial production (LRIP). The formal programme name is the AWACS Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation (DRAGON).

Boeing spokesman Benjamin Davis said on 12 December the company supplies kits for the modernised contract to the USAF, which completes installation at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The LRIP contract will conclude on 24 January 2022.

Davis said DRAGON provides five full-colour digital displays with targeted and customisable navigation, engine, and radar data that will replace analogue cockpit dials. Davis said the previous cockpit assembly held analogue dials that could only display one point of data, but the digital technology allows the user to toggle between multiple display options and customise the data they see.

Davis said, for example, the digital navigation displays provide unique screen overlays that enhance pilot and co-pilot situational awareness. The DRAGON configuration, he said, can add military and commercial navigation aids, such as weather radar and flight plans. By switching out the 1970s-era system with modern, off-the-shelf digital avionics, Davis said the modernisation also resolves recurring issues with out-of-production parts.

The twenty-first century avionics and digital flight deck, Davis said, will provide cost savings by reducing the flight deck crew from four to three as AWACS operators will easily and efficiently access the necessary data.

Another feature, Davis said, is the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B Out) that will replace the current outdated radar ground system. He said since ADS-B Out is satellite-based, it is more accurate than radar, offering more precise information regarding aircraft location, speed, and flight path.

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