Boeing E-3 Sentry
Boeing E-3 Sentry
Boeing E-3 Sentry
The E-3 Sentry is an airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft that
provides all weather surveillance, command, control, and communications needed
by commanders of U.S., NATO, and other allied air defense forces. As proven in
Operation Allied Force, it is the premier air battle command and control aircraft
in the world today.
The E-3 Sentry is a modified Boeing 707-320 commercial airframe with a rotating
radar dome. The dome is 30 feet (9.1 m) in diameter, six feet (1.8 m) thick, and
is held 14 feet (4.2 m) above the fuselage by two struts. It contains a radar
subsystem that permits surveillance from the Earth's surface up to the
stratosphere, over land or water. The radar has a range of more than 250 miles
(375 km) for low flying targets and beyond the horizon (approximately 400 miles,
although the actual range is classified) for aerospace vehicles flying at medium
to high altitudes. The radar, combined with an IFF subsystem, can look down to
detect, identify, and track enemy and friendly low flying aircraft by eliminating
ground clutter returns that confuse other radar systems.
The E-3 fleet completed its largest upgrade in 2001. Known as the Block 30/35
Modification Program, the upgrade includes four enhancements:
Electronic Support Measures (ESM) for passive detection, an electronic
surveillance capability to detect and identify air and surface based emitters,
Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) to provide secure,
anti-jam communication for information distribution, position location, and
identification capabilities, an increase in the memory capability of the computer
to accommodate JTIDS, EMS, and future enhancements, and a Global Positioning
System (GPS), a satellite based positioning capability to provide precise global
Other major subsystems in the E-3 are navigation, communications, and computers
(data processing). Consoles display computer processed data in graphic and
tabular format on video screens. Console operators perform surveillance,
identification, weapons control, battle management, and communications functions.
The radar and computer subsystems on the E-3 Sentry can gather and present broad
and detailed battlefield information. Data is collected as events occur. This
includes position and tracking information on enemy aircraft and ships and
location and status of friendly aircraft and naval vessels. The information can
be sent to major command and control centers in rear areas or aboard ships. In
times of crisis, this data can be forwarded to the National Command Authority
in the United States.
In support of air-to-ground operations, the Sentry can provide direct information
needed for interdiction, reconnaissance, airlift, and close-air support for
friendly ground forces. It can also provide information for commanders of air
operations to gain and maintain control of the air battle.
As an air defense system, E-3s can detect, identify, and track airborne enemy
forces far from the boundaries of the United States or NATO countries. It can
direct fighter-interceptor aircraft to these enemy targets.
Experience has proven that the E-3 Sentry can respond quickly and effectively to
a crisis and support worldwide military deployment operations. It is a
jam-resistant system that has performed missions while experiencing heavy
electronic countermeasures (ECM).
With its mobility as an airborne warning and control system, (AWACS), the Sentry
has a greater chance of surviving in warfare than a fixed, ground-based radar
system. Among other things, the flight path can quickly be changed according to
mission and survival requirements. The E-3 can fly a mission profile for more
than 8 hours without refueling. Its range and on-station time can be increased
through inflight refueling and the use of an on-board crew rest area.
The aircraft are used as a surveillance asset in support of anti-drug missions.
U.S. Customs Service officers may fly aboard the E-3 Sentry on precoordinated
missions to detect smuggling activities.
Engineering, test, and evaluation began on the first E-3 Sentry in October, 1975.
In March, 1977, the 552nd Airborne Warning and Control Wing (now 552nd Air Control
Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma) received the first E-3s.
Air Combat Command has 28 E-3s at Tinker, two at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, and two
at Kadena AB, Japan. Pacific Air Forces has four E-3 Sentries assigned to the
961st Airborne Air Control Squadron (AACS), Kadena AB, and the 962nd AACS,
Other NATO member nations have acquired 18 E-3As and support equipment. The first
NATO E-3 was delivered in January, 1982. Presently 17 NATO E-3As are in the
inventory, one having been lost in a crash at takeoff (no fatalities). The United
Kingdom has seven E-3s which it designates the AEW Mk.1, France has four and
Saudi Arabia has five. Japan has four Boeing 767 based AWACS aircraft. The UK RAF
order followed expensive, unsuccessful trials of a domestic product, the BAe
E-3 Sentry aircraft were among the first to deploy during Operation Desert Shield
where they immediately established an around-the-clock radar screen to defend
against Iraqi forces. During Desert Storm, E-3s flew more than 400 missions and
logged more than 5,000 hours of on-station time. They provided radar surveillance
and control to more than 120,000 coalition sorties. In addition to providing
senior leadership with time critical information on the actions of enemy forces,
E-3 controllers assisted in 38 of the 40 air-to-air kills recorded during the
The data collection capability of the E-3 radar and computer subsystems allowed
an entire air war to be recorded for the first time in the history of aerial warfare.
In March, 1996, the US Air Force activated the 513th Air Control Group, an AWACS
Reserve Associate Program unit which performs duties on active duty aircraft.
During the spring of 1999, the first AWACS aircraft went through the Radar System
Improvement Program (RSIP). RSIP is a joint U.S./NATO development program that
involves a major hardware and software intensive modification to the existing
radar system. Installation of RSIP will enhance the operational capability of
the E-3 radar and electronic counter-measures, and dramatically improve the system's
reliability, maintainability, and availability. U.S. installation of RSIP was
completed in fiscal year 2004.
The E-3 is slated to be replaced, along with the EC-135 and the E-8 Joint STARS,
by the E-10 MC2A, based upon the Boeing 767-400ER airframe.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "E-3 Sentry".