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RAF Start Talks on E-3D Replacement

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RAF Start Talks on E-3D Replacement

Old 19th May 2018, 05:48
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RAF Start Talks on E-3D Replacement

RAF starts talks on E-3D AWACS replacement | Jane's 360

Key Points
  • The RAF has begun to consider replacing its E-3D AWACS aircraft
  • It is becoming increasingly costly to maintain the E-3Ds, meaning that replacing rather than upgrading them might be the most cost-effective option.
Senior UK Royal Air Force (RAF) officers and procurement officials have begun discussions with industry teams to look at options to replace the service’s ageing and unreliable fleet of Boeing E-3D Sentry Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft.

According to senior UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources close to the project, the MoD’s Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) review is now considering the E-3D replacement issue.
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Old 19th May 2018, 06:39
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This will be interesting, given the state of the UK defence budget!

Would the RAF be prepared to downsize to the C-295 AEW:


Or consider another Boeing such as the E-767 used by Japan or the 737-based Wedgetail, favoured by quite a few nationsl?

Does the US have a plan for replacing its own E-3 fleet? Or NATOOTAN?
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Old 19th May 2018, 06:51
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Old 19th May 2018, 07:52
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Doesn't Add Up!

If the E-3D is 'oh so last century' and increasingly difficult to maintain, why have the USAF, French and NATO committed to the Block 40/45 upgrade? Doesn't add up. What I sense is someone wants a shiny new aeroplane.

There's a fair bit of doubtful information around about vulnerability to AWACS killer missiles and inability of the 'old technology' to detect hypersonic missiles.

To the former I say get into airborne bistatic radar capability - perfectly practical now as when first proposed back in the 80s - and separate transmitter from receiver by as many miles as you like. That means the ARMs will target the (cheap and sacrificial) transmitter in something like a UAV. And to the latter, there's no single, wide area surveillance scanning radar capable of detecting and tracking a hypersonic missile at long enough range to do anything about it, and a new AESA antenna won't solve the problem - but airborne bistatic operation might, because the missile is likely to be an ARM (see first point).

What daftness there is around.
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Old 19th May 2018, 08:05
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The UK E-3D was left to wither on the vine, with all too frequent cost-cutting and risk-taking leaving the aircraft so far behind in airworthiness, technology and sustainment that it's hard to see a way back for the youngest E-3 fleet. Chopping-up an expensive aircraft as a fun project was equally questionable. Cutting our losses and starting again is probably better and hopefully some lessons are learned by those who killed it with a thousand cuts.
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Old 19th May 2018, 08:42
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Originally Posted by Just This Once... View Post
The UK E-3D was left to wither on the vine, with all too frequent cost-cutting and risk-taking leaving the aircraft so far behind in airworthiness, technology and sustainment that it's hard to see a way back for the youngest E-3 fleet. Chopping-up an expensive aircraft as a fun project was equally questionable. Cutting our losses and starting again is probably better and hopefully some lessons are learned by those who killed it with a thousand cuts.
agreed - lack of investment/sustainment has destroyed the E3D. Start again with E7 Wedgetail - much better capability and supremely reliable to boot - will provide a better long term solution. Don’t forget the sustainment $$$ this time.
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Old 19th May 2018, 08:48
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Not Past It Yet

Originally Posted by Just This Once... View Post
The UK E-3D was left to wither on the vine, with all too frequent cost-cutting and risk-taking leaving the aircraft so far behind in airworthiness, technology and sustainment that it's hard to see a way back for the youngest E-3 fleet. Chopping-up an expensive aircraft as a fun project was equally questionable. Cutting our losses and starting again is probably better and hopefully some lessons are learned by those who killed it with a thousand cuts.
Cutting up ZH105 was a seriously bad decision. https://abpic.co.uk/pictures/full_si...2838-large.jpg

That aircraft cost around £150m when it arrived in 1993. How anyone came to the conclusion it was better as scrap after minor damage than be fixed and returned to service is beyond comprehension. I'm amazed it hasn't been raised by the Defence Select Committee as a point of egregious, shocking waste for which someone should be held accountable.

As for the fleet being, perhaps, too far gone; I doubt it. If we can bring 50+ year old Airseeker airframes back from the boneyard to airworthy condition, and that the 6 remaining E-3Ds are still flying, there's not much that can't be fixed. Certainly the Block 40/45 upgrade would rejuvenate the fleet for another 20-30 years - and would also do as we said we would at the outset: keep our aircraft aligned with the global fleet and so save on development and upgrade costs. Someone forgot that bit by the look of it when they cancelled our Project Eagle (40/45 upgrade).

Crackers!
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Old 19th May 2018, 09:02
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Originally Posted by ORAC View Post
the service’s ageing and unreliable fleet
Now I feel old, I remember when they were new and dynamic and replaced the Shackletons.

Things just don't last as long as they used to.
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Old 19th May 2018, 09:06
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The Rivet Joint weren't from the bone yard, they were all active KC-135 airframes up until they arrived at Greenville for conversion and were the "newest" KC airframes available. The problem with the E3D isn't just the airframe, the mission system has also been allowed to fall behind in capability.
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Old 19th May 2018, 09:09
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The RJs were not boneyard aircraft - they were in-service KC-135s. Their airworthiness (or otherwise), sustainment and upgrade cycle is managed by the USAF and not an intellectually bereft DE&S senior leadership team.

The failure to keep the E-3D in the wider E-3 fleet block upgrade program was a major mistake. Trying to keep the E-3D ticking with in-house resources was to the considerable credit to those directly involved but overly optimistic and manpower intensive. Having a new clueless DE&S senior leadership team wondering why the (UK specific) support team was so massive when compared to other PTs, before promptly offering them up as a saving measure, was just barking mad. This left the UK not just on its own with a unique fleet, with no economies of scale, but suddenly with no UK-specific team to keep the platform going. The switch of support contractors and single track maintenance did the rest.
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Old 19th May 2018, 09:37
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Over on the Royal Air Force forum on ARRSE there is a thread about this.

Replacement AWACS

See the input of a certain well known RAF PPRuNer who is seldom seen in these parts due to trolling and whataboutery.
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Old 19th May 2018, 10:45
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I do wonder whether a replacement for the E-3D needs to be in its image, or even crewed to the same extent (or in the same way).

There is plenty of evidence, even at Waddington itself, of remote operations, keeping pink bodies in the UK.

The back end operators could stay on the ground and be available to operate alongside the desperately undermanned teams in the CRCs - and with the right comms in place, they could operate from the CRCs themselves.

Awaits incoming.
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Old 19th May 2018, 10:54
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Originally Posted by Just This Once... View Post
The RJs were not boneyard aircraft - they were in-service KC-135s. Their airworthiness (or otherwise), sustainment and upgrade cycle is managed by the USAF and not an intellectually bereft DE&S senior leadership team.

The failure to keep the E-3D in the wider E-3 fleet block upgrade program was a major mistake. Trying to keep the E-3D ticking with in-house resources was to the considerable credit to those directly involved but overly optimistic and manpower intensive. Having a new clueless DE&S senior leadership team wondering why the (UK specific) support team was so massive when compared to other PTs, before promptly offering them up as a saving measure, was just barking mad. This left the UK not just on its own with a unique fleet, with no economies of scale, but suddenly with no UK-specific team to keep the platform going. The switch of support contractors and single track maintenance did the rest.
Yes it was a major mistake not to uphold our well stated commitment to keep pace with the Boeing world-wide fleet. I heard it with my own ears from what was then the Procurement Executive. Things get lost over the years, not for the better.
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Old 19th May 2018, 11:29
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Originally Posted by SirToppamHat View Post
I do wonder whether a replacement for the E-3D needs to be in its image, or even crewed to the same extent (or in the same way).

There is plenty of evidence, even at Waddington itself, of remote operations, keeping pink bodies in the UK.

The back end operators could stay on the ground and be available to operate alongside the desperately undermanned teams in the CRCs - and with the right comms in place, they could operate from the CRCs themselves.

Awaits incoming.
No incoming but it tends to work out cheaper to have the bandwidth onboard rather than fighting for satellite time, especially for a nation that has precious few of them for military use. For the weapons team the update rate is critical to any intercept. Introduce satellite delay into a demanding EW and evading target scenario and you will have a world of hurt. To date, manned platform have also proved to be easier and more flexible to operate - especially when operating in or near civilian traffic; that will improve of course but we really need something that is proven.
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Old 19th May 2018, 11:34
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"Back end operators"? Ooh ello Mr Horne...

It actually looks like things are headed in a good direction. And AEW is not Joint STARS. Some stand-off is possible.
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Old 19th May 2018, 16:18
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Wedgetail looks to have been maturing nicely in Australian hands, with some fairly major early teething troubles now apparently ironed out and the system reportedly working well, having achieved FOC in 2015. It's currently undergoing a major programme of further upgrades, due to be completed in 2022. What I don't know is how closely what the Wedgetail offers compares with what the UK would want, but on the face of it the timing could be propitious and the degree of commonality with P8 advantageous too. As to cost, Turkey paid $US 1.6 bn for its 4 examples and Australia probably something comparable for its initial 4 - although subsequently exercising its option for 2 more apparently cost less than $US 300m. Worth a close look as one of the options, I'd have thought.
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Old 19th May 2018, 16:45
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ZH105 was probably retired for a reason…. It was subsequent used for NDT airframe testing and its now used for Evac training IIRC

And at least 2 others may have benefitted from its retirement as well, one of them being the one that took a hit from the towing trainer


The French do rather well looking after a country bigger than ours with only 4.
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Old 20th May 2018, 09:14
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NATO have lost one E3A in an accident. Two have been removed from service, and another one is going to the boneyard next year, these three have been sacrificed to save money on what we used to call Major servicing.
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Old 20th May 2018, 09:35
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The NE-3A Component received its first ac in 1980. All 7 E-3Ds were delivered by early 1992.
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Old 20th May 2018, 10:03
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Big savings on the crew as well - almost half that of the E3D. The Wedgetail uses 2 pilots and between 6-10 mission crew. It would possibly see a change in the numbers and type of rear crew we need as well. Would it be the catalyst to finally take the Airborne Fighter Controllers into the aircrew fold rather than the ridiculous set up where none of them want to be promoted to Sqn Ldr as they will take a pay cut!!!

Also, that would be the end of the Air Engineer and the final aircraft to operate with a Air Navigator, in a true navigation role, would be the RJ. Also, with the Sentinel OSD looming then there will be no more Airborne Imagery Analysts (IAs).

it’s time to rationalise the Branch again into a much tidier Pilot/WSO/WSOp cadre and get rid of the “non-aircrew” fudges (FC, IA and AT) - if you operate the aircraft and the capabilities within in it then you should be called Aircrew as either a Pilot, WSO or WSOp. If you don’t then you aren’t Aircrew - it really is that simple!
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