Tuesday, May 21, 2024

U.S. Air Force awards Boeing E-7A prototype contract

The U.S. Air Force has awarded Boeing a $1.2 billion contract to develop two new U.S. variants of the E-7 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft.

The DAF selected the E-7A to replace America’s Cold War fleet of 31 E-3 Sentry AWACS early warning aircraft.

The E-7 offers a fully integrated, combat-proven, flexible command and control node that delivers multi-domain awareness in the most challenging operational environments. The E-7’s open system architecture and flexible software design allow the aircraft‘s capabilities to evolve and stay ahead of future threats.

The E-7 tracks multiple airborne and maritime threats simultaneously with 360-degree coverage thanks to a Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) sensor. MESA thereby offers a ‘critical domain awareness’ to detect and identify enemy targets at long range and dynamically adapt to emerging tactical situations.

The E-7 leverages an established supply chain that significantly reduces maintenance and logistics costs and increases mission readiness on day one. Converted from the Next-Generation 737-700, the E-7 takes advantage of existing commercial-derived aircraft design, certification, and modification processes, enabling E-7s to be deployed to meet Air Force needs.

Other E-7 operators include the Royal Australian Air Force, the Republic of Korea Air Force, the Turkish Air Force, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.

“The E-7 is a proven platform,” said Stu Voboril, E-7 program vice president and general manager. “It is the only advanced aircraft that is capable of meeting the U.S. Air Force’s near-term Airborne Early Warning & Control requirement while enabling integration across the joint force.”

Boeing was commissioned to build two prototypes, and 24 more aircraft from the series will be purchased later. The USAF plans to begin production in fiscal 2025, with the first E-7A expected to be fielded by fiscal 2027. The service anticipates procuring 24 additional E-7As by fiscal 2032 as the Sentries are modernized to continue performing their duties. The E-7A total aircraft inventory is projected to be 26.