Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Aircraft
Using Service (US):
Air Force (ACC; PACAF)
Upgrades and Sustainment.
The E-3 Sentry is an airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft with an integrated command and control battle management (C2BM)
surveillance, target detection, and tracking platform. The aircraft provides the Joint Air Operations Center (JAOC) with a precise,
real-time picture of the battlespace. The E-3 is a heavily modified Boeing 707-320B Advanced (commercial airframe).
The E-3 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-100A turbofan engines, each providing 20,500 pounds of thrust.
The E-3 is equipped with a rotating radar dome. The dome is 30 feet (9.1 m) in diameter and 6 feet (1.83 m) thick. Two struts connect the radar dome to the fuselage and hold it 11 feet (3.35 m) above. The dome contains a radar subsystem that permits surveillance from the Earth's surface up into the stratosphere. The radar has a range of more than 250 miles (376 km). The radar combined with an identification friend or foe (IFF) subsystem can detect, identify and track both enemy and friendly low-flying aircraft by eliminating ground clutter returns that confuse other radar systems.
Major subsystems in the E-3 are avionics, navigation, communications, sensors (radar and passive detection) and identification tools (IFF/SIF). The aircraft is equipped with Northrop Grumman (formerly Westinghouse) AN/APY-1 and AN/APY-2 radars. The mission suite includes consoles that display computer-processed data in graphic and tabular format on video screens. Mission crew members perform surveillance, identification, weapons control, battle management and communications functions. The mission crew consists of 13 to 19 specialists (varies according to mission). The E-3 has a flight crew of four.
The radar and computer subsystems on the E-3 Sentry can gather and present broad and detailed battlefield information. This includes position and tracking information on enemy aircraft and ships + location and status of friendly aircraft and naval vessels. The information can be sent to major command and control centers in rear areas or aboard ships. In support of air-to-ground operations, the Sentry can provide direct information needed for interdiction, reconnaissance, airlift and close-air support for friendly ground forces. It can also provide information for commanders of air operations to gain and maintain control of air battles.
Engineering, test and evaluation began on the first E-3 Sentry in October 1975. In March 1977, the 552nd Airborne Warning and Control Wing, now 552nd Air Control Wing, at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB) in Oklahoma received the first E-3s. The last U.S. Air Force E-3 was delivered in 1984. An E-3 crashed on September 22, 1995 in Alaska.
As of September 2015, there are a total of 31 E-3s (18x E-3B; 4x E-3C; 9x E-3G) in the active U.S. Air Force inventory +1 test aircraft. The FY 2015 DoD Budget sought to divest seven E-3 aircraft, which would have reduced the fleet size from 31 to 24 aircraft. However, Congress did not accept the proposed AWACS divesture and, in response, the USAF FY 2016 budget submission re-phased the E-3 force reduction of seven aircraft to FY 2019. Air Combat Command has 27 E-3s at Tinker AFB while the Pacific Air Forces has four E-3 Sentries at Kadena Air Base in Japan and Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson in Alaska. Also, NATO has 17 E-3As with the first aircraft delivered in January 1982. The United Kingdom has seven E-3s, France has four, and Saudi Arabia has five. Furthermore, Japan has four AWACS aircraft built on the Boeing 767 airframe.
The E-3 Sentry has proven itself as the world's premier C2BM aircraft. Over the years, the aircraft has deployed to operations Desert Storm, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector. AWACS aircraft were instrumental to the successful completion of operations Northern and Southern Watch, and are still engaged in operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom. The E-3 has also deployed to support humanitarian relief operations in the U.S. following Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, where the aircraft coordinated rescue efforts between military and civilian authorities.
U.S. Air Force E-3 Variants:
E-3B---This is an upgrade of the earliest E-3A. Aircraft are equipped with enhanced computer capabilities, jam-resistant communications, austere maritime surveillance capability, upgraded radio communications, and five additional mission consoles. The upgrades were completed in 1994. E-3B aircraft have also received Block 30/35 mods that integrated and enhanced four major subsystems (completed in 2001). Currently, the Air Force is installing interim next generation IFF to ensure Block 30/35 aircraft meet new IFF requirements while awaiting Block 40/45 upgrades.
E-3C---This is an upgrade from the E-3A and includes five additional mission consoles and 'Have Quick' anti-jamming equipment. E-3C aircraft have received Block 30/35 upgrades. The E-3C is also receiving the interim next generation IFF.
E-3G---This designation is applied to Block 40/45 upgraded aircraft. As of September 2015, five aircraft have been modified with entire fleet conversion planned by 2020. This is the most comprehensive upgrade in E-3 program history. Block 40/45 upgrades enhances tracking and combat identification capabilities, enhance mission effectiveness, improve mission system reliability, and lower life-cycle costs. Upgrades include a new mission computer system, using an open architecture with 50 computers and 24 software products and automated processes to greatly reduce operator workload; new operator consoles; improved electronic support measures (ESM) passive surveillance capability; and full next generation IFF. The E-3G achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) on July 28, 2015. A Block 40/45 (E-3G) inventory of 17 aircraft is expected by the end of FY 2017.
Aircraft no longer produced.
The E-3 Sentry provides an accurate, real-time picture of the battlespace to the Joint Air Operations Center (JAOC). The AWACS provides situational awareness of friendly, neutral and hostile activity, command and control of an area of responsibility, battle management of theater forces, all-altitude and all-weather surveillance of the battle space, and early warning of enemy actions during joint, allied, and coalition operations.
FY 2016 provides funds in the amount of $206.8 million for modifications and spares for E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft. + $131.8 million for RDT&E. The primary modification budgeted in FY 16 is the Block 40/45 Upgrade (more info under FY 2017 below).
The FY 2017 Budget requests funds in the amount of $334.9 million for modifications and spares for E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft
+ $86.6 million for RDT&E.
The primary modification program in FY 17 is the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Block 40/45 modification.
AWACS Block 40/45 modification upgrades legacy E-3 mission systems computers, display processors, and displays
to provide critical support to Air Force Battle Management Command and Control (BM/C2) missions.
It provides the foundation required for all future AWACS enterprise modifications through a customized implementation
of Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) hardware with a software intensive architecture. The AWACS Block 40/45 Upgrade
also provides a single target/single track capability with an improved human-machine interface for time-critical targeting
designed to increase combat effectiveness and reduce fratricide. The AWACS Block 40/45 Upgrade also includes an upgrade
to Electronic Support Measures (ESM) sensor data processing; data fusion of both off-board and on-board sensor data
through multi-source integration (MSI); a Data Link Infrastructure (DLI) upgrade with prioritized data link bandwidth management;
new battle management tools; capability to parse, allow user access to, and integrate updates to Tactical Data Information
Link (TADIL)-J message formats and protocols; enhanced mission and console recording capabilities while maintaining legacy chat
communications and onboard training; modification of system software to accommodate Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (DMS).
For more information, click to see the USAF FY 2017 E-3 Modifications Budget and the USAF FY 2017 AWACS Block 40/45 Budget.
Sources: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), The Boeing Company,
and Northrop Grumman Corp.
Last Update: July 5, 2016.
By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard Balle /// (firstname.lastname@example.org)
E-3 AWACS U.S. Defense Budget Charts:
|Modification of E-3B/C Aircraft (USAF)||Block 40/45 Upgrades (USAF)||Aircraft Spares and Parts (USAF)|
|RDT&E: Block 40/45 Upgrades (USAF)|
Primary Function: Airborne surveillance and command, control and communications