The US Air Force’s (USAF) Hanscom Air Force Base (AFB) airborne early warning and control (AWACS) next-generation identification friend or foe (NGIFF) programme office has completed the first installation of the new AN/UPX-40 system on E-3 Sentry aircraft.
The development also included the addition of new improvements to an operational AWACS at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, while the USAF’s fleet of 31 AWACS aircraft are soon set to receive this upgrade.
NGIFF deputy programme manager Nick Grudziecki said: "The UPX-40 dramatically improves the detection of weak signals or manoeuvring targets at maximum range and improves detection of targets at all ranges.
"The new interrogation capabilities also provide faster detection of friendly targets."
The new AN/UPX-40 system is replacing the existing AN/APX-103C model.
With the radar and computer subsystems on AWACS, USAF personnel will be able to collect and present real-time, detailed battlefield information.
Coupled with an IFF interrogation system, the radar will be capable of detecting, identifying and tracking enemy and allied low-flying aircraft by removing ground clutter signals that confuse other radars.
Grudziecki added that the force is planning to install the new system on eight more aircraft by the end of the year. The $60m IFF upgrade is part of an AWACS modernisation effort known as Block 40/45.
The latest upgrade is the significant counter-air battle management improvement in the combat Air Force’s tactical C2 history, USAF stated.
The programme will see the replacement of current 1970s vintage mission computing and displays with an open system and up-to-date commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software.
Image: AWACS helps the US Air Force to detect enemy as well as friendly aircraft at long distances using an interrogation system. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo/Senior Airman Betty R Chevalier.