The UK Ministry of Defense has grounded six Boeing E-3D Sentry Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft after it discovered electrical problems during a routine technical inspection.
The aircraft were found to have an unspecified issue with some electrical wiring and cabin conditioning systems during a recent routine technical inspection. "Safety remains our paramount concern, therefore, the UK Sentry fleet will only fly again once the on-going rectification work is complete," the MoD was quoted as saying by IHS Janes Monday.
Although a small fleet, the E-3Ds have seen a heavy tasking load of late, with missions over Eastern Europe and the Middle East in support of NATO's efforts to counter Russia and the Islamic State respectively.
While the grounding order will certainly limit the United Kingdom's contributions to those missions in the short term, NATO has enough slack in the system with its own 16 aircraft, the four fielded by France, and the 31 operated by the US Air Force to more than cover any shortfall in capability.
Based on a modified Boeing 707/320 commercial airframe, the E-3 Sentry is built around a 9.1 m diameter rotating radome that sits atop the fuselage. This radar has a range of more than 400 km (which equates to a coverage area of more than 500,000 km 2 of airspace) to look down and detect, identify, and track low-flying aircraft over land or water, with crew members performing surveillance, identification, weapons control, battle management, and communications functions.
Due to budgetary constraints, the United Kingdom's E-3D fleet has not received the same level of upgrades and enhancements in recent years as those fielded by the other type-operators France, NATO, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.