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NATO inducts first E-3A into Final Lifetime Extension Programme

The first of 14 NATO AWACS aircraft departs for the FLEP upgrade programme. (NATO)

NATO has launched the Final Lifetime Extension Programme (FLEP) for its Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) fleet, inducting the first of 14 aircraft.

The aircraft N-1 left the main operating base of the NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Force (NAEW&CF) at Geilenkirchen, Germany, on 11 April, bound for the Leonardo modification facility in Tessera, Italy.

“The ‘long climb' towards the induction of the first FLEP aircraft [N-1] for modification of the mission system has come to a successful conclusion,” NATO said. “We should be proud of what we have accomplished during the past four years [of preparatory work], but the steep climb is now ahead of us.”

As noted by FLEP programme manager Dana Whaley, this “steep climb” comprises finishing the N-1 modification in the next 12 months, completing the mission system software development, installing the system integration laboratory and ground systems at Geilenkirchen, resolving hardware and software integration problems, validating and verifying the technical orders, and training the initial cadre of operators and maintainers. “Afterwards, we have 13 additional aircraft to modify,” Whaley said.

NATO and Leonardo have not disclosed the nature of the hardware to be fitted for the FLEP upgrade, and also when the upgrade is planned to be completed across the entire fleet.

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