The Department of the Air Force (DAF) have awarded The Boeing Company a contract to begin work on the E-7A weapon system as of 28 February 2023. The value of the initial contract is not expected to exceed US$1.2 billion.
The DAF selected the E-7A to replace the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), which will provide advanced Airborne Moving Target Indication and Battle Management, Command and Control capabilities and advanced Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array radar that will enhance airborne battle management and enables long-range kill chains.
In the fiscal year 2022, the DAF selected the E-7A to replace the E-3 AWACS, and are currently using the rapid prototyping acquisition pathway to acquire the first two E-7As.
“The E-7A will be the department’s principal airborne sensor for detecting, identifying, tracking, and reporting all airborne activity to Joint Force commanders,” explained Andrew Hunter, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “This contract award is a critical step in ensuring that the department continues delivering battlespace awareness and management capabilities to US warfighters, allies and partners for the next several decades. The E-7A will enable greater airborne battlespace awareness through its precise, real-time air picture and will be able to control and direct individual aircraft under a wide range of environmental and operational conditions.”
The USAF plans to begin production in the fiscal year 2025, with the first E-7A expected to be fielded by 2027. The service anticipates producing 24 additional E-7As by 2032. The total aircraft inventory is projected to be 27.
Ongoing modernisation of the E-3 AWACS is part of the commitment to the 2022 National Defense Strategy, by continuing better worldwide Battle Management, Command and Control and Airborne Moving Target Indication Operations as required by the DAF.
“We conducted a thorough analysis of viable industry options to ensure the selected E-3 replacement could meet the specific needs of the US. Until the E-7A is fielded, we will continue to rely on the E-3 AWACS,” Hunter added. “The rapid prototyping program will integrate US-based mission systems into the existing airborne platform to meet DAF requirements while simultaneously ensuring interoperability with coalition and allied partners already operating the E-7A.”