Aerial Warfare

NATO Communications and Information Agency Contributes to AWACS Modernization Effort

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NATO Communications and Information Agency Contributes to AWACS Modernization Effort

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NATO Communications and Information Agency Contributes to AWACS Modernization Effort
NATO Communications and Information Agency Contributes to AWACS Modernization Effort

On 17 May 2024, the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCIA) handed over a Ground Test Station to the NATO AEW&C Programme Management Agency (NAPMA) at the NATO E-3A Air Base in Geilenkirchen, Germany. The Ground Test Station will perform end-to-end checkout and communication systems testing on the first configured NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control (AWACS) NE-3A aircraft. The NATO’s AWACS fleet consists of 14 NE-3A aircraft which conducts a range of missions from peacetime air policing, support to counter-terrorism, evacuation operations, embargo, initial entry and crisis response to the full spectrum of wartime missions.

“The completion of this important project is a testament of the great cooperation between NCIA, NAPMA and the NAEW Force. NCIA has been supporting the Force for over three decades, and we are grateful to continue doing so through this modernization effort. The development and testing of the Ground Test Station was possible through the collaborative effort of our NATO Integrated Mobile Services Centre (NIMSC) and CIS Sustainment Support Centre (CSSC) teams, who successfully managed to meet the requirements identified by NAPMA in 2017 and delivered under schedule,” said Robert Essad, Principal Operations Specialist in NCIA Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.

NATO Communications and Information Agency
Photo by NATO Communications and Information Agency

The fleet is currently embarking upon a final modernization effort to extend its service life to 2035. The Ground Test Station was designed, built and handed over to NAPMA within three years, as part of the NCIA’s support to the AWACS fleet modernization, run by NAPMA through the Final Life Extension Programme (FLEP). NCIA has been providing Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance support to the FLEP since 2016, as part of the overall service support project from NCIA to NAPMA. The Ground Test Station will be used for testing the new communication suite on the upgraded FLEP N-1 aircraft, the first FLEP configured NE-3A aircraft.

NCIA is also supporting the software upgrades to the NATO AWACS mission system, by providing security and vulnerability assessments conducted by the NATO Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). The goal is to have the new FLEP NE-3A mission and ground support software accredited to operate on NATO environments as soon as it is fielded. To celebrate the handover/takeover of this project, a ceremony took place in Geilenkirchen with representatives from NCIA and NAPMA. Following the handover to NAPMA, NCIA will continue to provide support to the Ground Test Station. User trainings will be provided over the next few months, and periodic maintenance and inspection will be handled until the NE-3A fleet is fully retrofitted.

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