The US Air Force (USAF) has successfully completed the first test flight of an upgraded flight management system suite for the E-3 Sentry (AWACS) aircraft from Boeing Field in Kent, Washington.
The test flight was conducted as part of the USAF's communications, navigation, surveillance / air traffic management (CNS / ATM) diminishing manufacturing sources replacement of avionics for global operations and navigation (DRAGON) programme.
The CNS / ATM DRAGON programme was initiated in 2013 to modernise AWACS fleets. It involves the replacement of ageing, predominantly analogue, non-sustainable equipment with modern and digital avionics systems.
The airborne early warning and control aircraft has been equipped with an upgraded flight management system suite in a bid to provide warfighter with enhanced battle management capabilities.
The automated navigation function reduces cockpit crew personnel from four to three.
USAF engineering and manufacturing development programme manager Collin Manzo said: "The cockpit upgrade will make the AWACS fleet operationally ready for worldwide deployments, meeting all the new air traffic management mandates for the ever-increasingly congested international airspace, while reducing the logistical footprint and increasing cost savings."
The aircraft is now compliant with current and future air traffic control requirements, indicating that it has broader access to conduct battle management operations in airspace across the world.
DRAGON programme manager Gwen LaMuro said: "The modernised flight deck has more user-intuitive, with full-colour glass displays that enable customisable engine, navigation and radar information.
"This enhanced avionics system suite utilises commercial, off-the-shelf equipment which eliminates diminishing manufacturing source issues, provides a commercially available replacement solution and reduces sustainability risk to the AWACS platform."
With an integrated command and control battle management, surveillance, target detection, and tracking platform, E-3 Sentry provides an accurate, real-time picture of the battlespace to the Joint Air Operations Center.
Image: An E-3 Sentry with an upgraded flight management system suite, takes off for a test flight in Kent, Washington. Photo: courtesy of Boeing.