The US Air Force has awarded Boeing a $1.2 billion contract to begin development of two new US variants of the E-7 Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft.
The service expects to receive the first aircraft developed under the rapid prototype program in fiscal year 2027.
While the E-7 is an operational platform in service with several operators, Boeing will be delivering prototype airframes to the US Air Force. This could mean that the US variants will be receiving new capabilities or that extensive work is necessary to bring the aircraft to US Air Force “configuration standards and mandates.”
The E-7, with the added Northrop Grumman Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar, provides a fully integrated command and control node. The US Air Force is buying the platform as a replacement for a portion of the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) fleet.
“The E-7 is a proven platform,” said Stu Voboril, E-7 program vice president and general manager. “It is the only advanced aircraft that is capable of meeting the US Air Force’s near-term Airborne Early Warning & Control requirement while enabling integration across the joint force.”
The E-7 tracks multiple airborne and maritime threats simultaneously with 360-degree coverage via the Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) sensor. MESA provides the warfighter with critical domain awareness to detect and identify adversarial targets at long range and dynamically adjusts to emerging tactical situations.
Other E-7 operators include the Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Turkish Air Force and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.
The E-7 is based on a Boeing 737-700 series aircraft, capitalizing on existing commercial derivative aircraft design, certification and modification processes, allowing E-7s to be fielded to meet Air Force needs.