E-3 Sentry aircraft

Z Microsystems has been selected by Boeing to supply its rugged display systems for both the US and French air forces’ E-3 Sentry advanced warning and control system (AWACS) Block 40/45 upgrade programme.

Under the contracts, worth a combined $1.2m, the company will supply an undisclosed number of its Gen3 Orion universal display platform (UDP) units for installation on both the US and French AWACS fleets.

Z Microsystems CEO Jack Wade said the Gen3 Orion selection represents the quality, performance and reliability of the company’s rugged display products.

Equipped with resistive touch technology, Gen3 Orion is an ultra-rugged new-generation UDP designed to deliver real-time enhanced video, digital and analog video support to pilots during flight.

The display features a new ultra-high performance modular video processor, which supports picture-in-picture (PIP), dual-view, Quadview, real time enhanced video (RTEV) options, fast FPGA graphics cards and user-friendly on-screen Softmenus with GUIs.

"The company will supply an undisclosed number of its Gen3 Orion universal display platform (UDP) units."

All displays models to be supplied under the contract have already passed stringent environmental qualification testing, including Mil-Std-810 and Mil-Std-461 standards.

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Valued at $2.9bn, the Block 40/45 upgrade aims to improve the aircraft’s potential for using network-enabled operations, boost AWACS mission execution capability, effectiveness and reliability, while also reducing lifecycle costs.

The upgrade involves improvements to the primary AWACS display, data link infrastructure, machine-to-machine interaction, as well as reduction of timeline from threat engagement to neutralisation.

Boeing completed modernisation of the first aircraft in May 2011 under a contract for block 40/45 upgrade of six USAF E-3 AWACS, while the remaining E-3s are scheduled to complete in 2014. Block 40/45 modernisation of the entire US fleet of 32 E-3s is expected to complete by 2016 or 2017.

The four AWACS fleet upgrade for the French Air Force is being conducted as part of a $324m contract awarded by USAF in November 2010. Deliveries under the contract are scheduled to complete by 2014.

Image: The USAF’s first E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, US, prior to undergoing the block 40/45 upgrade.

Defence Technology