Air Pressure eyes contract for AWACS substitute in 2023

WASHINGTON — The Air Pressure mentioned this week a contract to purchase a substitute for the getting older E-3G Sentry — often known as the AWACS, or Airborne Warning and Management System plane — might are available in fiscal 2023.

In keeping with a request for data launched Tuesday, the service desires to know inside 30 days how a possible contractor would ship a minimum of two prototype plane to switch the AWACS, together with floor assist and coaching methods, inside 5 years of an anticipated 2023 award.

The Air Pressure famous the RFI was issued for its personal planning functions and isn’t a promise to problem a request for proposals sooner or later. However it supplies the fullest image but of the time-frame and necessities the service could also be eying for the E-3′s substitute.

The E-3 AWACS, which dates again to the Seventies, is a closely modified Boeing 707 with an unmistakable 30-foot rotating radar dome above its fuselage. It supplies command and management and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to handle the battlefield, and its radar has a variety of greater than 250 miles.

The Air Pressure has flown the AWACS in quite a few conflicts in current a long time, together with the Gulf Conflict and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has used it in assist of humanitarian aid operations after hurricanes Rita and Katrina by coordinating navy and civilian rescue efforts.

However the Air Pressure’s 31 E-3s are 43 years outdated on common, and preserving them maintained has develop into increasingly more difficult, prompting one prime normal to push for a substitute as quickly as doable.

The Air Pressure’s statistics on mission-capable charges present the rising issue in preserving the AWACS within the air. The E-3G’s mission-capable charges plunged 10 share factors final yr from 70.7% in 2020 to 60.7% in 2021. The E-3B equally slumped from 65.8% to 55.8% throughout that very same interval.

The Air Pressure desires firms responding to the RFI to elucidate how their proposed substitute aircrafts would ship a number of capabilities the AWACS now supplies. These capabilities ought to embrace a sophisticated Airborne Shifting Goal Indication radar that would preserve a 360-degree surveillance image whereas homing in on targets and carry out real-time knowledge processing of targets, the RFI mentioned.

The Air Pressure additionally desires to understand how a substitute plane would inform the distinction between pleasant and enemy forces, conduct radar-based maritime surveillance, and conduct concurrently a minimum of six battle administration command and management missions — together with air visitors management, shut air assist, suppression of enemy air defenses, air refueling, and fight search and rescue.

Boeing’s E-7 Wedgetail, now flown by the Royal Australian Air Pressure, is likely one of the main contenders to switch the AWACS. Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach instructed reporters a yr in the past he wished the Air Pressure to maneuver quick and purchase the Wedgetail to switch the E-3, which he mentioned was getting “tougher and tougher to get airborne.”

Air Pressure Chief of Workers Gen. Charles Q. Brown on the time took a extra cautious stance.

“Had been going to should do one thing,” Brown mentioned final February. “I don’t know what that ‘one thing’ is but. We’ve acquired to actually have a look at what the choices are, and the Wedgetail is a kind of. However it will not be the one choice.”

In October, the Air Pressure introduced its intention to award a sole-source contract to Boeing to check a possible acquisition of the Wedgetail and the work the plane would require to satisfy the service’s wants.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter at Protection News. He beforehand reported for, protecting the Pentagon, particular operations and air warfare. Earlier than that, he coated U.S. Air Pressure management, personnel and operations for Air Pressure Instances.