Northrop Grumman has developed and performed a Mode S upgrade to the identification friend-or-foe (IFF) interrogator mounted onboard the UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Sentry E-3D airborne warning and control system (AWACS) fleet.

Performed under the existing Sentry E-3D whole life support programme (WLSP) at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, UK, the Mode S upgrade enables the aircraft to be used in controlled airspace.

Northrop Grumman Technical Services weapon system sustainment and modernisation director John Parker said the upgrade has eliminated the requirement for complete mission computer replacement, thereby providing the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) with a comprehensive, affordable solution to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) upgrade requirement.

"The new, open architecture system also provides a foundation for future incremental hardware and software upgrades to support sustainment of the Sentry E-3D," Parker said.

Defence Equipment and Support Air ISTAR delivery manager group captain Adam Northcote-Wright said the complex, critical capability has been jointly developed by the company and the Sentry Project Team.

"This combined effort delivered a cost effective Mode S solution that has achieved full operational capability across the UK Sentry E-3D fleet," Northcote-Wright said.

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"The new, open architecture system also provides a foundation for future incremental hardware and software upgrades."

The IFF interrogator is an advanced airborne defence system designed to provide a long-range, rapid early warning and detection capability, which enables discrimination between friendly and hostile aircraft.

Working in collaboration with the Air ISTAR Programme Team, Northrop provides a broad spectrum of through-life services required for support of the Sentry E-3D AWACS fleet, as part of the WLSP, which is scheduled to run until 2025.

In addition to this, the company provides the radar and in-service support for the radar, along with the Joint Sentry Support Team comprising BAE Systems and AAR.

The Boeing-built E-3 Sentry aircraft are extensively operated by the RAF for airborne surveillance and command, control and communications missions.

Image: A Royal Air Force’s E-3D Sentry AWACS aircraft lands at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, UK. Photo: courtesy of SAC Andy Stevens.

Defence Technology