Rockwell Collins Gets $17M for Full-Rate Prodn of E-3 AWACS Plane’s DRAGON Upgrades

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The U.S. Air Force today awarded Rockwell Collins a contract valued $17 million for full-rate production of Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation (DRAGON) for the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) E-3 airframe.

This contract provides for the fabrication and delivery of Rockwell Collins B-Kit items, installation and checkout spares items, and software and associated ancillary items, to be installed on 25 AWACS aircraft.

AWACS DRAGON seeks to modernize the E-3’s cockpit by replacing most analog indicators with modern digital multicolor graphic displays. Nearly all of the 1970s-vintage avionics are being replaced with updated subsystems that comply with today’s air traffic management standards. It leaves the E-3’s systems like engines, airframe, and mission systems intact.

Overall, the upgrades increase aircraft capabilities and reduce maintenance costs; besides eliminating the need for E-3’s navigator, dropping the crew size from four to three. It also adds a Mode-5 identification friend-or-foe (IFF) capability.

The effort includes digital satellite communications (SATCOM); modern flight management system; and digital cockpit with five glass display screens for engine, navigation and situational awareness data. It also includes weather radar that can predict wind shear; enhanced ground proximity warning system; and digital flight deck audio distribution system.