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Boeing has secured a $250m contract to upgrade the Nato’s E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft fleet.

Under the contract, the company will install digital flight decks and avionics on 13 of the alliance’s 17 Boeing 707 commercial airliner-based aircraft.

The aircraft will have global air traffic management (GATM) technology that meets the existing and future air traffic control and navigation requirements, thereby giving the aircraft broader access to airspace worldwide, IHS Jane’s reported.

Boeing AWACS programme manager Jon Hunsberger said: "Increasing airspace access means greater mission efficiency by saving time and fuel during operations.

"The improvements also provide the pilot and co-pilot user-friendly and customisable engine, navigation and radar data."

The upgrade is expected to help Nato achieve cost savings in personnel by reducing the number of flight deck crew on each aircraft from four to three.

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Boeing claims that the upgrade will also solve the challenge of identifying out-of-production avionics for the fleet by utilising readily available commercial-off-the-shelf digital avionics.

"The upgrade is expected to help Nato achieve cost savings by reducing the number of flight deck crew on each aircraft from four to three."

Work under the contract is scheduled to commence in 2016 and complete by 2018.

Boeing has already installed a new digital flight deck and avionics on one Nato AWACS under a previous engineering manufacturing and development (EMD) contract, and plans to start the flight trials during the fourth quarter.

Delivery of refurbished AWACS to Nato is scheduled for December 2015.

The EMD contract also will see Boeing modernising the flight deck and avionics of a US Air Force AWACS aircraft from November.

Built by Boeing Defense & Space Group, E-3 Sentry is designed to conduct all-weather airborne surveillance and command, control and communications functions for both tactical and air defence forces.

Image: Boeing has already installed a digital flight deck on one Nato AWACS under a previous contract. Photo: courtesy of Boeing.

Defence Technology