U.S. Air Force Starts E-7 Rapid Prototype Program As E-3 AWACS Replacement



A rendering of the E-7A Wedgetail carrying the U.S. Air Drive livery. (Photograph: Boeing)

The primary E-7A is predicted to be fielded by 2027, with a complete anticipated order for 26 plane.

The Division of the Air Drive is transferring on with the E-7 to switch the growing older E-3 Airborne Warning And Management System, awarding a not-to-exceed $1.2 billion contract to Boeing to start out growth actions for the E-7A Rapid Prototype program. The E-7 was chosen in 2022 to switch the E-3, resulting in the institution of the E-7A Program Administration Workplace and now the acquisition of the primary two plane by means of the fast prototyping acquisition pathway.

“The E-7A would be the division’s principal airborne sensor for detecting, figuring out, monitoring, and reporting all airborne exercise to Joint Drive commanders,” mentioned Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Drive for Acquisition, Expertise and Logistics. “This contract award is a crucial step in making certain that the division continues delivering battlespace consciousness and administration capabilities to U.S. warfighters, allies and companions for the following a number of a long time. The E-7A will allow better airborne battlespace consciousness by means of its exact, real-time air image and can have the ability to management and direct particular person plane below a variety of environmental and operational situations.”

The E-7A will present superior Airborne Shifting Goal Indication and Battle Administration, Command and Management capabilities, and superior Multi-Function Electronically Scanned Array radar that enhances airborne battle administration and permits long-range kill chains with potential peer adversaries. The E-7 was initially developed for the Royal Australian Air Drive below “Challenge Wedgetail” and later adopted by the Republic of Korea Air Drive, Turkish Air Drive and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.

“The E-7 is a confirmed platform,” mentioned Stu Voboril, E-7 program vice chairman and basic supervisor. “It’s the solely superior plane that’s able to assembly the U.S. Air Drive’s near-term Airborne Early Warning & Management requirement whereas enabling integration throughout the joint power.”

The E-7 is obtained by conversion from the business Boeing 737-700, capitalizing on the prevailing plane design, certification and modification processes which, along with a well-established provide chain, will scale back growth, upkeep and logistics prices in addition to the time wanted earlier than it may be fielded. Boeing mentioned in a press release that two variants of the E-7 will developed, however didn’t present additional particulars. Some analysts advised two examples of the identical variant will probably be constructed and never two totally different ones for the USAF.

File photograph. A U.S. Air Drive E-3 Sentry assigned to the 961st Airborne Air Management Squadron departs after completion of aerial refueling over the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 3, 2021. (U.S. Air Drive photograph by Senior Airman Jessi Monte)

Boeing says the E-7 supplies a totally built-in, combat-proven, versatile command and management node that delivers multi-domain consciousness in essentially the most difficult operational environments. The E-7’s open systems architecture and agile software design allow the plane’s capabilities to evolve and stay forward of future threats.

In comparison with legacy methods, the OMS structure permits so as to add new or improved capabilities on operational plane in a short time and at a lowered price, which can also be very handy in an period of steady protection funds restraints. In 2020 Boeing introduced that works have been in progress to upgrade the E-7 by integrating Open Mission Programs-compliant parts. Particularly, Boeing built-in its Battle Administration Command and Management (BMC2) system with an unspecified superior wide-band Energetic Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar developed by Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman is the developer of the Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar positioned on a dorsal fin on high of the E-7’s fuselage, which supplies 360-degree surveillance functionality (although it doesn’t rotate like the E-3 Sentry’s antenna) with each air-to-air and air-to-surface protection with and built-in Identification Good friend or Foe system. MESA supplies the warfighter with crucial area consciousness to detect and establish adversarial targets at lengthy vary and dynamically adjusts to rising tactical conditions, mentioned the press launch.

The event work is predicted to be full by August 2024, based on the contract notice. The USAF plans to start manufacturing in fiscal 2025, with the primary E-7A anticipated to be fielded by fiscal 2027. The service anticipates procuring 24 extra E-7As by fiscal 2032, with a complete projected plane stock of 26 plane. In the mean time, the E-3 is being upgraded to continue providing worldwide Battle Management, Command and Management and Airborne Shifting Goal Indication Operations till the E-7 is able to be fielded.

“We carried out an intensive evaluation of viable business choices to make sure the chosen E-3 alternative might meet the precise wants of the U.S. Till the E-7A is fielded, we are going to proceed to depend on the E-3 AWACS,” Hunter mentioned. “The fast prototyping program will combine U.S.-based mission methods into the prevailing airborne platform to fulfill DAF necessities whereas concurrently making certain interoperability with coalition and allied companions already working the E-7A.”

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist primarily based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally finding out to realize a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT strategies utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.


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