The UK Defence Committee chairman has requested the Defence Procurement Minister to hold a fair and open competition for the replacement of the country’s airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft.
Currently, the Royal Air Force (RAF) owns six E-3D Sentry AWACS aircraft developed and delivered by Boeing.
The jets are expected to stay in service with the RAF until 2035 due to a planned capability sustainment programme that would help extend their service life.
However, reports emerged that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) intended to cancel the country’s sustainment programme and replace the E-3D Sentry AWACS aircraft with a new jet as part of its Modernising Defence Programme.
The RAF’s E-3D fleet is expected to be replaced by the Boeing E-737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, according to reports by IHS Jane’s.
If a possible AWACS aircraft replacement is under consideration, the Defence Committee has requested to procure the new aircraft through a competitive tender as it would help optimise value for money and allow the MoD to consider a range of options.
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Defence Committee chairman Dr Julian Lewis said: “AWACS is an important capability for the UK to maintain, particularly given the possibility of future conflict taking place in a heavily contested airspace against peer adversaries.
“The fact that the capacity of the RAF’s current AWACS fleet has been run down to such a low level is greatly to be regretted.
“The MoD, if it seeks to replace Sentry with an entirely new system, has the opportunity to regenerate this capability and to give proper consideration to the range of available alternatives through a competitive tender.”
RAF’s Sentry fleet reportedly suffers poor maintenance, with a significant decline in the readiness and number of flying hours completed by the aircraft.