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NATO investing $1b to keep AWACS fleet in the air until 2035

Photo: NATO

NATO has signed a $1 billion contract with Boeing for the upgrades of its Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems Aircraft (AWACS).

The contract, signed between NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the president of Boeing International, Michael Arthur on November 27, will allow the fleet of aircraft to operate through 2035.

The 14 AWACS aircraft that are based at NATO Air Base (NAB) Geilenkirchen, Germany, will receive sophisticated new communications and networking capabilities. 16 NATO Allies, on both sides of the Atlantic, are funding this modernization, and companies from Europe and North America are working together to provide high-tech capabilities.

Upgrades will include enhancements of the NE-3A’s data link and voice communications capabilities, and enhanced Wide-Band Beyond Line-of-Sight airborne networking capability.

The E-3A usually operates at an altitude of around 10 km. From this altitude a single E-3A can constantly monitor the airspace within a radius of more than 400 km and can exchange information – via digital data links – with ground-based, sea-based and airborne commanders.

“NATO AWACS have been our eyes in the sky, supporting our operations for decades, from patrolling American skies after 9/11, to our operations in Afghanistan, and as part of the Global Coalition against ISIS,” said the Secretary General.

“NATO AWACS is a symbol of trans-Atlantic excellence, in terms of technology and partnership between Boeing, NATO and Europe. This modernization program will ensure the aircraft continue to thrive,” noted Michael Arthur.

“NATO will work closely with industry. We will consider how technologies – like artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and big data – can help NATO keep its edge,” Stoltenberg commenting on the the replacement of the AWACS in 2035.