HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass: Officials from the Electronic Systems Center here achieved the next step toward upgrading France’s fleet of airborne warning and control system aircraft with the recent award of a $324 million contract to the Boeing Company.
“The modification that will be completed with this Foreign Military Sale contract advances the mission computing systems from their current capabilities, similar to the U.S. Block 30/35 system, to roughly the same capabilities as the U.S. Block 40/45 system,” said Paul Sparaco, the England/French AWACS integrated product team chief.
The change to Block 40/45 takes the AWACS fleet from large legacy mainframe computer architecture to more modern Windows- and Unix-based mission computing. Improved situational awareness and combat identification capabilities are two of the benefits of the upgrade.
In addition to military-specific missions, AWACS aircraft have been used to support humanitarian missions, to assist with search and rescue, to provide security assistance for public events, and to help prevent drug trafficking and piracy.
“This upgrade provides the tools for the AWACS aircraft to perform these functions in a better way,” Mr. Sparaco said.
Some of the changes include: new displays, computers and consoles, improved identification friend or foe, and a multisource integration process, which combines data from separate sources.
“This will be the largest modification in French AWACS history,” said Robert Adamczyk, an engineer for the MITRE Corp., who serves as the chief engineer for the England/France AWACS program. “In fact, the modification is so large, a significant portion of the equipment currently on the aircraft will be removed and replaced by new wiring, consoles and computer racks.”
The upgrades are scheduled to be installed in the E-3F aircraft by Air France Industries in Le Bourget, France, beginning in 2012, following the completion of design and integration activity at Boeing Seattle.
“France will be the first international customer to have the Block 40/45 capabilities,” Mr. Sparaco said. “However, it was a long process to get here.”
With the contract being awarded, the program now moves into the full execution stage for the upgrade of the four E-3F AWACS.
“The French are extremely happy with the progress we’ve made on the program,” Mr. Sparaco said. “We were able to preserve their budget needs through an aggressive effort to reach a contractual agreement by December 2009.”
The next steps include a post-award conference, scheduled for April 5 with key stakeholders from France, Boeing and ESC, and a baseline review in May. The contract runs through 2016.
“This opens the door for other nations to receive this capability,” Mr. Sparaco said. “It will likely become the common international baseline for an AWACS Block 40/45 upgrade.”