The Chilean Air Force (Fuerza Aérea de Chile – FACh) has officially inducted the two Boeing E-3D Sentry airborne early warning Mk 1 (AEW1) aircraft, Chile bought from the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) in January this year. Chile commissioned two of the three airframes it bought, while the third one will be used for spare parts. The two E-3 Sentry AEW&C aircrafts are replacing the Cóndor(also referred to as Israel Aerospace Industries EL/M-2075 Phalcon) currently in service. The former RAF E-3D Sentry AEW Mk1 aircraft – transferred under an agreement between Chile and the UK – was handed over at a ceremony at Pudahuel air base – home to the service’s II Air Brigade
The Boeing E-3 Sentry is an American airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft developed by Boeing. E-3s are commonly known as AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System). Derived from the Boeing 707 airliner, it provides all-weather surveillance, command, control, and communications, and is used by the United States Air Force, NATO, French Air and Space Force, Royal Saudi Air Force and Chilean Air Force. The E-3 is distinguished by the distinctive rotating radar dome (rotodome) above the fuselage. Production ended in 1992 after 68 aircraft had been built.
The E-3 Sentry’s airframe is a modified Boeing 707-320B Advanced model. Modifications include a rotating radar dome uprated hydraulics from 241 to 345 bar (3500–5000 PSI) to drive the rotodome, single-point ground refueling, air refueling, and a bail-out tunnel or chute. A second bail-out chute was deleted to cut mounting costs. USAF and NATO E-3s have an unrefueled range of 7,400 km (4,600 mi) or 8 hours of flying. The Sentry’s range and on-station time can be increased through air-to-air refueling and the crews can work in shifts by the use of an on-board crew rest and meals area. The aircraft are equipped with one toilet in the rear, and a urinal behind the cockpit.
The UK fleet has slowly been reduced from 7 since 2011. In 2009, the UK effectively limited the service life of the E-3D fleet by de-funding the Project Eagle upgrade which would have seen it upgraded in line with the USAF Block 40/45 standard. The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 had announced the intention to retain the E-3D fleet until 2035, however in March 2019, the Ministry of Defence announced that the E-3Ds would be replaced by five E-7 Wedgetails from 2023. The last intended operational flight by an RAF E3 Sentry was supposed to be in July 2021 with the Sentry retired from service, however RAF ZH101 and ZH106 have both flown patrols over Poland / Eastern Europe during Russia’s incursions into Ukraine during late February / March 2022.