The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The E-7 gets an upgrade.

 I clipped this from my work email, The B737 platform is getting a workout, I didn't know about this one.

boeing e-7

Credit: Boeing

NATO allies have approved a decision to modernize the alliance’s airborne early warning (AEW) capability using Boeing’s E-7 Wedgetail platform.

Following in the footsteps of the UK and U.S., six E-7s will be acquired to replace the current 14-strong NATO fleet of Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft to meet its initial Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (iAFSC) capability. Initial operational capability is planned for 2031.

The decision to select the E-7—by a consortium of nations including Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania and the U.S.—follows the December 2022 publication by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) of a request for information for alternative AEW platforms.

Various airframers responded: Saab offered their GlobalEye, Northrop Grumman proposed the E-2 Hawkeye and L3Harris offered a conformal AEW conversion of the Bombardier Global 6500.

However, it seems that the E-7 won out, with NSPA telling Aerospace DAILY that the E-7 was judged as the “only known system currently capable of fulfilling the strategic commands’ essential operational requirements and key performance parameters and also being available for delivery within the timeframe required.”

Other considerations that favored the E-7 include its endurance, crew size, number of work stations and crew rest areas, as well as surveillance coverage capability, growth capacity and risk associated with design and delivery.

The aircraft is also a known entity. Another version of the platform, the E-7T operated by the Turkish Air Force, regularly flies alongside the E-3s from Konya, Turkey, while an Australian E-7 is currently operating in Europe on a six-month deployment monitoring and protecting supply routes from Poland into Ukraine.

“Surveillance and control aircraft are crucial for NATO’s collective defense and I welcome allies’ commitment to investing in high-end capabilities,” says NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “This investment in state-of-the-art technology shows the strength of transatlantic defense cooperation as we continue to adapt to a more unstable world," Stoltenberg adds.

The number of aircraft is eye-opening. A fleet of six represents less than half the number of NATO E-3s currently in service, but according to NSPA, six is the “minimum number of aircraft that the strategic commands state is required to deliver the minimum operational capability for Supreme Allied Commander Europe’s day-zero airborne air battle management capability.”

By comparison, the UK Royal Air Force is buying three E-7s to replace a fleet of originally seven E-3s, while the U.S. Air Force plans to buy 26.

Entry into service of the UK aircraft is running behind schedule, however, and service entry is planned for 2025.

Delivery by 2031 will ensure there is no capability gap when the E-3 fleet is finally retired from service in 2035, replaced by the wider AFSC multi-domain surveillance system, currently in development, which is expected to include uncrewed airborne surveillance systems.

In an emailed statement, Boeing says it appreciated the confidence from NSPA and participating NATO nations in the proven capabilities and interoperability benefits of the E-7.

“We stand ready to support this Foreign Military Sale and deliver this exceptional capability that will enhance NATO’s readiness,” the company’s statement reads.

Just like the E-3s, it is likely the E-7s will be manufactured by Boeing, although there are no details about whether the aircraft will be supported by European industry. The E-3s, for example, undergo maintenance and upgrades with companies such as Airbus and Leonardo.

Saab appears less than impressed with the decision, however.

In a statement, the company says it has noted NSPA’s decision, but it would “welcome further dialogue” on the agency’s decision process.

“From a technological point of view, GlobalEye is meeting or exceeding all capabilities set forth in the [request],” the Swedish company states, adding, "GlobalEye is pushing technology to levels that legacy thinking will miss out on."

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