NATO AWACS get digital displays in major upgrade
After over two years, NATO's fleet of 14 Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft have completed a major cockpit upgrade. In Manching, Germany, Boeing delivered the last modernized Sentry E-3A AWACS that has swapped its analog dials dating from the 1970s for five full-color digital displays that will provide the crew with customizable screens for engine, navigation, and radar data.
Based on the Boeing 707 airframe and recognizable for its distinctive Westinghouse radar rotating radar dome (rotodome), the Sentry E-3A first flew in 1977 and has been a key part of NATO's air defenses since the first aircraft was delivered in January 1982. Not only does it provide 24-hour, all-weather surveillance against airborne threats, it also acts as an airborne command, control, and communications center.
However, the last of 68 Sentrys was built in 1992 and the fleet's 1970's technology is beginning to show its age. In order for the NATO fleet to remain operational, Boeing was contracted to carry out a major upgrade program under the Alliance's Communication Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) modernization project to make sure that the aircraft comply with current and future air traffic control and navigation requirements. The first modified AWACS was delivered in November of 2016, with the remainder of the fleet following.
"We are delighted to deliver this final upgraded AWACS to NATO and honored by their continued partnership," says Scott Johnson, Boeing's CNS/ATM manager. "The modernized AWACS equipment provides real cost savings and efficiency so NATO can execute their vital mission for years to come."