Obsolete Air Force AWACS raise questions about air-to-air combat readiness
As the recent encounter with a Chinese spy balloon showed, securing the skies is hard work. The Air Force has relied on the E-3 Sentry for decades, and the most recent version of the E-3G has been upgraded with more modern electronics and software to keep up with new threats.
“The best way to describe it is like a quarterback in the sky,” said Air Force Colonel Keven Coyle, commander of the 552nd Air Traffic Control Wing. line up and then allow our friendly forces to be able to position themselves in such a way that they can fight with the greatest combat capability.
An E-3G flies past the Moon during takeoff from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
Brad Howard, CNBC
The Air Force is hoping the Boeing-built E-7 Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft can take over in the future if the Air Force needs to retire some of its older Sentry aircraft in the coming years. In the latest budget Congress appropriated an additional $200 million for the Air Force to develop a prototype to meet this need.
“Congress has approved funding for the first two prototypes, which is very good for the Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Peter “The Beast” Bastien, Air Combat Command’s Director of Plans, Programs and Requirements, Airborne Weapons and Aircraft Systems. main futures. “On the other hand, there is a physical limit to how fast you can turn a roll of aluminum into E-7.”
An RAAF E-7A Wedgetail takes off during Black Flag 22-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada on May 10, 2022.
US Air Force photo taken by Airman 1st Class Josie Blades.
The E-3 era made it difficult to purchase spare parts, and the mechanical failures inherent in such older aircraft affects the speed of missions. Congress has barred the Air Force from beginning to retire most of its current fleet of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft until the Secretary of the Air Force presents a replacement acquisition strategy to Congress. But even then, it could be years before a replacement is put into place.
A US Air Force E-3G taxis onto the runway at Tinker Air Force Base.
Brad Howard, CNBC
“The release of the first system in 2027 is not bad in terms of acquisition,” said Daniel Gur, senior vice president of the Lexington Institute. damn fast, but if there’s a way to get them faster, we really need to think about it to make sure we don’t lose opportunities because of the aging AWACS issue.”
Watch the video above for a peek inside the US Air Force E-3G Sentry.