Replace E-3 Sentry AWACS, US Air Force Orders E-7 AEW&C Spy Plane

Replace E-3 Sentry AWACS, US Air Force Orders E-7 AEW&C Spy Plane
Replace E-3 Sentry AWACS, US Air Force Orders E-7 AEW&C Spy Plane

Washington - United States Air Force (USAF) purchased the latest spy aircraft E-7 Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C). Boeing's state-of-the-art aircraft is to replace its aging fleet of E-3 Sentry AWACS spy planes.

The US Air Force has awarded Boeing a $1.2 billion contract to develop a new variant of the E-7 aircraft. The US Air Force wants to replace its Cold War era fleet of 31 E-3 Sentry AWACS early warning aircraft.

It is known that the E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft was based on the Boeing 707 and entered service in 1977. During the Cold War, AWACS aircraft served as a flight observation center and air command to detect enemy aircraft.

Today almost half a century later, the E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft is obsolete and will be phased out in the next two decades. Then the US government in 2018, purchased an E-7 variant originally developed in the 1990s for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) known as the E-7A Wedgetail.

The AEW&C E-7 spy plane is based on the commercial Boeing 737 aircraft. Its most striking difference from the E-3 aircraft is that the giant rotating radar dome has been replaced with a radar array antenna. The shape of the radar array antenna is static like a fin over the fuselage, but scans are electronically active.

The Northrop Grumman Multi device acts as an Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) sensor. This new radar not only helps make the E-7 lighter than its predecessor, but also provides 360-degree simultaneous tracking of various air and maritime threats. It also enables flexible command and control of friendly forces on land, sea and air via network connectivity for real-time analysis and targeting.

In addition, the new radar features an open architecture software design for rapid upgrades as technology improves. "The E-7 aircraft is a proven platform," said Stu Voboril, Program Vice President and General Manager of E-7.

The E-7 aircraft is powered by two CFM International CFM56-7B27A turbofan engines so it can accelerate at a speed of 853 km/hour and a range of 6,500 km. The E-7 aircraft has a wingspan of 35 meters and a maximum take-off weight of 77,600 kg.

On the inside, there is room for two flight crews and a station for up to 10 mission specialists. "It is the only advanced aircraft capable of meeting the US Air Force's short-range Airborne Early Warning & Control requirements while enabling integration across joint forces," added Stu Voboril.

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