North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) will likely finalise a $750 million contract with Boeing by the December of 2019 to extend the life of 14 ageing E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveillance aircraft through 2035.
“We’re planning to finalise the $750 million deal by December this year. $250 million additional funds have been earmarked for design, spare parts and testing,” Michael Gschossmann, general manager of NATO agency that manages AWACS aircraft fleet told Reuters on Saturday.
“There will be things we need to do to the NATO E-3A fleet to keep it flying past 2040,” George Riebling, deputy general manager of the agency, said.
NATO is currently looking for a successor for the ageing Boeing AWACS aircraft with their distinctive radar domes on the fuselage, or NATO would need to take costly steps to keep them flying even longer.
“We have to get moving on this. We have to ensure that the studies move along quickly. We need a reality check,” Gschossmann said.
A possible aircraft for replacement of the ageing planes could be the Boeing E-7 aircraft, which has been acquired by Turkey and Britain. “The E-7 aircraft are large enough to add potential new capabilities, such as operating drones for expanded surveillance in the coming years,” Gschossmann explained.
The US and France also operate the E-3A aircraft presently, and could potentially buy E-7 planes in coming years, which could lower costs by generating larger order quantities.
“Why don’t we bet on the proven technology that we already have in the E-7 and provide NATO with a certain number of those aircraft? That would give us a basic capability that could be expanded in the future,” Gschossmann said.