Air France Industries (AFI) has started modernisation of the French Air Force’s (ALAT) E-3F Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft at its facility near Paris, France.
Modernisation of the electrical, mechanical and structural systems and mission hardware of the first of the four aircraft forms part of a $354m E-3F mid life upgrade (MLU) contract secured by prime contractor Boeing in February 2010.
Based on the US Air Force’s (USAF) AWACS Block 40/45 system, the MLU programme is expected to reduce the workload of the crew, while supplying the fleet with a fuller picture of the battlefield and more actionable information.
The upgrade programme is expected to improve mission execution capability, reliability and effectiveness, as well as reduce lifecycle costs.
Boeing French AWACS programme manager Steve Swanz said Air France Industries is uniquely qualified to help the company in the upgrade programme as it has over 20 years’ experience with the E-3F fleet, and extensive technical and manufacturing capabilities.
"We are also benefitting from the strong cooperation of our US and French government customers," Swanz added.
The MLU programme specifically includes integration of primary AWACS display, upgraded Identification Friend or Foe Interrogation system, mission consoles, new mission computing subsystem, as well as integrated sensor and off-board datalinks for enhanced combat identification capabilities.
Boeing is supplying on-site engineering and quality assurance support, as well as software and hardware support for the programme.
Contract work was initially supposed to start in 2012 but had to be put on hold after the US Department of Defense issued a stop-work order to Boeing as the technology was deemed too sensitive for export.
Modernisation of the first E-3F AWACS aircraft is scheduled to be completed in 2014, followed by the remaining fleet in 2016.
Image: The first French AWACS aircraft stationed at Air France Industries’ Le Bourget facility near Paris in France. Photo: Courtesy of Boeing.