Leonardo to Upgrade NATO E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System Test Aircraft

Within the framework of the NATO Final Lifetime Extension Programme (FLEP), Leonardo has been contracted by Boeing – as prime contractor for NAPMA (NATO AEWC Program Management Agency) – to upgrade the first NATO E-3A test aircraft with the latest hardware. FLEP’s aim is to maintain the NATO’s fleet of E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, which are operative until 2035. The activity, to be completed within 2023, includes the installation and checkout of newly-developed hardware under the FLEP (Final Lifetime Extension Programme) program accomplished by Leonardo’s highly skilled personnel of the Venice-Tessera plant in Italy.

“This new challenging task joins the ongoing Depot Level Maintenance (DLM) activities that Leonardo is already performing within the framework of the NATO AWACS (Airborne Warning & Control System) programme since 1986”, said Dario Marfe’, SVP Commercial and Customer Services at Leonardo’s Aircraft Division. “Being contracted by Boeing for the upgrade of the first NATO E-3A test aircraft is the acknowledgment by an aircraft OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and NATO of the excellent support provided daily by Leonardo over the last few decades for the E-3A fleet support and upgrade.”

NATO Boeing E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System
NATO Boeing E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System

Leonardo will then provide also support during the final test phase at the Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base. NATO operates a fleet of Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) aircraft, with its distinctive radar domes mounted on the fuselage, which provide the Alliance with air surveillance, command and control, battle space management and communications. The NATO Air Base (NAB) Geilenkirchen, Germany, is home to 14 AWACS aircraft. NATO is currently looking for a successor for the 14 obsolete AWACS planes, due to be phased out 2035. Boeing 707s were converted into these planes by equipping them with long-range radar and sensors.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on Wednesday divulged plans of upgrading their ageing fleet of E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes for $1 billion. The alliance has, till date, spent $6.8 billion on the AWACS program. NATO would need to take costly steps to keep the aircraft, having a distinctive radar dome on the fuselage, flying even longer. NATO are also now looking how to replace the AWACS fleet in the future after 2035. Additionally, NATO is set to receive first of its total five ordered Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance drones soon.

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