The Boeing-managed Abiliti consortium has been selected by NATO to initiate a study to define the future characteristics of NATO's E-3A Sentry replacement.
The Future Airborne Surveillance, Command and Control (AFSC) Aircraft
This March 31, Boeing just announced that Boeing-Abiliti will lead the feasibility and risk reduction study (RRFS) for the replacement for NATO's E-3 Sentry aircraft. The study is to define the airborne surveillance, command and control concepts for the future Atlantic Alliance AWACS (AFSC) fleet.
The Abiliti consortium includes several companies with already recognized expertise in aeronautics:
- Indra (Spain)
- Leonardo (Italy)
- Inmarsat (United Kingdom)
- Thales (France)
- ESG (Germany)
- Lufthansa Technik (Germany)
- Mott MacDonald (United Kingdom)
NATO's Sentry fleet (NAEW&C) is due to be replaced by 2035, 50 years after the first AWACS in Alliance colors entered service. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, these aircraft have been flying constantly on NATO's eastern flank and particularly in the vicinity of Ukraine, as is the case at the time of writing. The fleet is currently at E-3A standards but has been upgraded several times, such as in 2019 when the aircraft were equipped with an full glass cockpit. Moreover, a final upgrade is planned to keep them flying until 2035. Worth $1 billion, this program will replace the communications and, most importantly, networking systems vital to an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.
A multinational fleet under the NATO roundel
The fleet consists of 14 E-3A Sentry aircraft based in Geilenkirchen (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) but can rely on three forward bases:
- Konya (Central Anatolia, Turkey)
- Aktion (Preveza, Greece)
- Ørland (Trøndelag, Norway)
There are a total of 16 member nations in the NATO AEW&C (NAEW&C) Programme Management Organisation (NAPMO) system program:
- 15 countries provide the crews (between 16 and 30 people depending on the mission): Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the United States
- Luxembourg is part of the program but does not provide any crew members
The United Kingdom has limited participation in the NAPMO program because it has its own fleet of AWACS aircraft (E-7 Wedgetail) but that is integrated into the NATO AWACS fleet (NAEW&C). France does not participate in the program but has observer status due to its willingness to interact with its E-3F Sentry. Indeed, the 4 E-3Fs of the French Air Force and Space Force are fully interoperable and coordinate with the NATO E-3As.
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