US Air Force has awarded a contract to Boeing for a Block 40/45 upgrade of the air force’s airborne warning and control system (AWACS) fleet.

The Block 40/45 upgrade will enhance the system’s ability to use network-enabled operations and increases AWACS mission execution capability, effectiveness and reliability while lowering life-cycle costs.

Boeing will supply shipset hardware, spare parts, ground systems installation and delivery, and logistic support for the first aircraft under the Low-Rate Initial Production contract.

Boeing AWACS 40/45 and Advanced Projects programme manager Paula Pielak said that the Block 40/45 brings the AWACS mission system into the 21st century and enables rapid future upgrades.

“This will allow the AWACS fleet to remain a key asset in air battle management for many years to come,” Pielak said.

Improved capabilities include the primary AWACS display, which increases situational awareness through its intuitive mission displays and detailed map database, higher processing power, which enables better operation of the fleet’s advanced battle management tools, such as Automatic Air Tasking Orders and Airspace Coordination Order updates and the capability to determine the most effective airborne weapon to pair against an identified target.

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In addition, the Multi-Source Integration process, which automatically integrates data from on-and off-board sources, such as radar and Identification Friend or Foe, has been upgraded.

The open system and lean architecture of the MSI will also enable rapid software upgrades and require less hardware.

The first systems will be fully installed by the third quarter of 2011. The remaining five LRIP aircraft will be covered in a follow-on contract.