AEW MARKET REPORT 2009
Over the past 20 years, the AEW&C market has changed radically and emphasis has shifted from
‘blue water’ to overland operations. U.S. efforts centre on the Boeing E-3 Sentry, the Boeing 737
AEW&C, the Boeing E-767 and the Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye aircraft.
Entering service with the US Air Force (USAF) in March 1977, the Boeing E-3 Sentry has gone on to
see service with the air forces of France, Saudia Arabia and UK, together with a composite NATO
AEW force. At the heart of what is known as the E-3 Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS)
is Northrop Grumman’s S-band (2-4 GHz) AN/APY-1/-2 radar. Here, the baseline AN/APY-1 started
life as an over-land pulse-Doppler sensor that has developed into the ‘dash 2’ following the
introduction of a full overwater capability.
Both configurations have been upgraded, with USAF AN/APY-1 radars being given an ‘austere’
maritime capability subsequent to their entry into service and both models being the subject of the
Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP). Designed to improve performance – particularly against
low radar cross-section targets such as cruise missiles – the RSIP package includes a new pulse-
compressed waveform to enhance sensitivity and an improved man-machine interface.
The USAF’s first 24 E-3 aircraft were delivered in core E-3A configuration, which included the
AN/APY-1 radar, the AN/APX-103 identification fiend-or-foe (IFF) interrogator and the CC-1 mission
computer. Subsequently, all the service’s Core E-3As have been brought up to E-3B standard, which,
in its Block 30 configurartion, adds over-water radar and Joint Tactical Information Distribution
System (JTIDS) capabilities, together with five additional operator workstations and extra ‘Have
The core E-3A was followed by the Common USAF/NATO E-3A, a nomenclature that was applied to
USAF Sentry aircraft numbers 27-34, the 18 E-3s supplied to the so-named NATO AEW&C Force E-3A
Component and five aircraft procured by Saudia Arabia. In baseline form, Common aircraft differed
from their predecessors by virtue of their use of the AN/APY-2 radar, the CC-2 mission computer and
a new data analysis and programming group. Other changes included additional communications
radios and, in the case of the Saudi aircraft, CFM56 2A-2 turbofans in place of the TF33.
All three Common customers have upgraded their aircraft, with enhanced USAF examples being
designated as E-3Cs. Here, the E-3C Block 35 configuration equates precisely with the already-
described E-3B Block 30 update with the exception of its use of the AN/APY-2 radar.
The next E-3 configuration to surface was the CFM-56 2A-3-powered E-3D for the UK Royal Air Force
(RAF). Equipped with the AN/APY-2 radar and the AN-APX-103 IFF interrogator, the E-3D is flown by
a basic flight/mission crew of 17 and introduced the ‘Yellow Gate’ ES system. As with other users,
the RAF has upgraded its Sentry AEW Mk 1s. The range of enhancements include AN/APX-103 and
France terms its 17-man CFM-56 2A-3- powered E-3Fs as Systeme de Detection et de Control
Aeroportee (Airborne Detection and Control System) aircraft and, over time, has introduced the
AN/AYR-1 ES system, a new GPS/inertial navigation system, and it is believed, French national PR4G
(Poste Radio 4eme Generation) – compatible communications equipment. Again, France’s E-3Fs
have been ‘RSIPed’ and, most recently, the French air force has begun investigating a possible open
–architecture upgrade, which would be based on the E-3G configuration.
The AN/APY-2/APX-103 combination forms the basis of Japan’s Boeing E-767 AWACS aircraft. The E-
767 developed as a response to Boeing’s closure of the E-3/E-6 production line, but only Japan has
procured such platforms.
Boeing’s remaining AEW platform – the Boeing 737 AEW&C aircraft – is built around Northrop
Grumman’s 1.2-1.4 GHz-band Multirole Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar. Currently, the
Boeing 737 AEW&C is being procured by Australia (under Project Wedgetail): South Korea (Peace
Eye) and Turkey (Peace Eagle).
NORTHROP GRUMMAN E-2D HAWKEYE
Hawkeye is something of a hybrid as it is carrier capable and is the primary AEW asset of the French
and US navies. Land-based Hawkeyes are operated by the air arms of Egypt, Japan, Mexico,
Singapore and Taiwan.
Of these, the Mexican aircraft are equipped with the UHF-band (300 MHz to 3 GHz) Lockheed Martin
AN/APS-135 radar, while those flown by Singapore are fitted with the UHF-band Lockheed Martin
AN/APS-138. All other currently operational E-2s are equipped with the UHF-band Lockheed Martin
AN/APS-145 sensor, a radar that is also installed aboard a percentage of the US Customs and Border
Protection service’s fleet of P-3 AEW&C aircraft. Currently, Northrop Grumman continues to
promote the E-2 as a land-based AEW&C platform.
The AEW&C market has also become increasingly crowded, with aircraft like the G550 CAEW taking
orders away from the Hawkeye. Northrop Grumman is fighting back with its next-generation E-2D
Advanced Hawkeye. Although it looks much like the traditional Hawkeye, the E-2D is essentially a
At the heart of the E-2D is Lockheed Martin’s AN/APY-9 radar, described as two generations ahead
of the AN/APS-145. It is a solid-state, electronically scanned UHF system giving roughly twice the
range of the latter radar (about 400 miles or 650km), and expanding the volume of searchable
airspace by 250%.
Development of the Advanced Hawkeye began in 2001 and the aircraft first flew on the 3rd
2007. Initial production was scheduled to begin in March 2009, with service entry in 2011. The
‘Navy is expected to order 75 Advanced Hawkeyes at a cost of $17.5 billion to replace its existing E-
2Cs, which will be retired from 2013.
Northrop Grumman has warned that production of the E-2D Hawkeye carrier-borne airborne early-
warning (AEW) reconnaissance aircraft for the US Navy may be delayed following programme cuts of
The navy planned to buy 12 LRIP aircraft in four annual lots of three. However, the House Armed
Services Committee (HASC) of the US House of Representatives, in its Fiscal Year 2009 defence
budget request, cut US$165.5 million from Lot 1 and US$37.9 million from the advanced
procurement for Lot 2.
The Chinese AEW programme appears to have been kick-started by Israel’s cancellation of a deal to
supply the People’s Republic with an AEW system based on the Elta Systems Phalcon mission suite
mounted on an A-501 airframe. China recovered the prototype A-501 airframe and used it as the
basis for its indigenous KJ-2000 AEW&C system. China is developing at least two other AEW
platforms based on the Shaanxi Y-8 transport aircraft. In the first instance, a prototype equipped
with a dorsal ‘plank’ antenna similar to that used in the Swedish ERIEYE system is reported to have
made its maiden flight in November 2001. The second Y-8 based platform is equipped with a dorsal
rotodome, which appears to be a rotating – rather than a fixed – structure.
Asia’s other indigenous land-based AEW programme is being carried out by India. Under
development by a consortium led by the Bangalore-based Centre for Airborne Systems, India’s
AEW&C architecture is to be carried aboard a modified ERJ-145 airframe and includes a primary
surveillance radar (PSR), an IFF interrogator, radar and communications – ES capabilities and a self-
protection suite. In terms of a timescale for this ambitious project, India’s Defence Research and
Development Organisation stated in March 2008 that it expects the project to be fully developed,
tested, certified and inducted into service by 2011, which seems to be very optimistic.
Israeli activity in the field centres around three generations of phased –array radars that have been
installed aboard Chile’s Condor platform (first generation), India’s 18-man A-50Ehl (second
generation) and the eight-man Gulfstream G550-based conformal AEW (CAEW) aircraft, which has
been procured by both Israel and Singapore. The third-generation CAEW radar is part of Elta
Systems’ EL/W-2085 mission suite and takes the form of a dual-frequency (L- and S-band) Active
Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) system that provides 360-degree coverage in azimuth.
Russia’s land-based AEW capability also makes use of the A-50 airframe – itself a derivative of the
Ilyushin Il-76 transport – and is equipped with the S-band Shmel (Bumblebee) 3-D pulse-Doppler
AEW radar. In January 2008, the Russian Interfax press agency had reported Vega-M as having
completed “a complex of scientific research and experimental design work” on an upgraded A-50
weapons system for the Russian Air Force and that state tests had confirmed and architecture’s
performance ‘in full’.
While the Russian Air Force wants to upgrade its fleet of approximately 16 A-50s, it remains
unconfirmed as to whether or not the described update is being pursued.
Sweden’s Saab Microwave Systems produces the 3.1-3.3 GHz-band ERIEYE AEW radar that is
installed aboard Brazilian EMB-145SAs (military designation R-99As), Greek EMB-145Hs, Mexican
EMB-145SAs, Pakistani Saab 2000 AEW&C aircraft and Swedish S 100B/D Argus AEW aircraft.
ERIEYE has been progressively updated, with April 2008 seeing the latest ERIEYE configuration that
incorporates new, higher-output transceiver modules and a new commercial off-the-shelf mission
system computer (MSC). As of July 2008, published ERIEYE performance specifications included an
effective surveillance area of 500,000 km2, a 450 km detection range and an altitude coverage that
was in excess of 19,812 m.
SEA KING ASaC Mk.7
The Royal Navy is preparing to deploy Sea King ASaC7 Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopters
to Afghanistan to provide surveillance support to land forces engaged in Operation ‘Herrick’. They
are expected to arrive in theatre sometime in mid-2009, with a roulement of aircraft and aircrew
from 849 and 857 Naval Air Squadrons planned to last for two years.
Introduced to front-line service in 2002, the ASaC Sea King was originally conceived as a replacement
for the earlier Sea King AEW2 airborne early warning helicopter. However, operational experience in
the opening phases of Operation ‘Telic’ in Iraq in 2003 demonstrated the capabilities of its
Searchwater 2000AEW pulse-Doppler radar to detect and track moving ground targets.
Since then, the Sea King ASaC community has undertaken additional tactical development in littoral
and overland environments to promote its ground moving target indication (GMTI) capability to land
component commanders. A shortfall of GMTI assets in the Afghanistan theatre has long been
apparent: the Royal Navy believes that this ‘spotlight’ GMTI capability at tactical level is inherently
complementary to the wide area picture provided by the RAF’s new Sentinel R1 ASTOR aircraft.
The Boeing 737-based Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft has demonstrated some
of its performance potential in recent exercises, but continues to experience problems with radar
subsystem maturity and stability and integrated system performance.
The aircraft underwent an operational evaluation during Exercise Amhem Thunder, conducted in
Australia’s Northern Territory in late April, with all aspects of its performance having been tested.
The results will be used to support a decision on the way forward for the programme, which is
running about three years late due to issues with airframe modifications, developmental problems
with its electronic warfare system and Northrop Grumman multirole electronically scanned array
(MESA) radar. An independent assessment of the MESA radar is also being conducted by the MIT
Lincoln Laboratory, with the DoD yet to receive its report. A project summit meeting was scheduled
for June 2009.
India has taken delivery of its first of three Ilyushin Il-76 transports to be converted into an airborne
early warning system aircraft using Elta Systems’ Phalcon radar.
The delivery follows an 18-month delay attributed to technical hitches encountered while integrating
the Israeli system on to the Il-76 platform. Acquired under a $1.1 billion deal, all three aircraft will
be delivered by late 2010. To be based in Agra, the fleet will be used for missions including the
tactical surveillance of airborne targets and electronic intelligence gathering, and to manage
operations with combat types including the Dassault Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi SU-30MKI.
India wants to further bolster its AEW capabilities, and is negotiating the purchase of additional
Phalcon-type systems. An Elta-developed variant of the Gulfstream G550 business jet is one
candidate, with the system – already in service in Israel and Singapore – having been demonstrated
to the Indian air force earlier this year.
Northrop Grumman is currently in negotiation with the US government to gain export release
clearance for India regarding the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. The Indian Navy (IN) has a requirement
for about six maritime surveillance aircraft and has earmarked the E-2D as a possible contender.
The IN’s requirement for the E-2 is very similar to the US Navy’s (USN),and as such, would require
very little modification. Northrop Grumman has carried out a feasibility study into operating the E-
2D from the IN’s aircraft carriers but has concluded that, although technically feasible, the aircraft
would require extensive modifications to allow it to take off using a ‘ski-ramp’. As such, any IN E-2Ds
would be land-based.
Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) aircraft – which entered
Israeli service earlier this year – represents an original solution to producing an affordable advanced
technology airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platform.
Working in concert with US contractor Gulfstream Aerospace and its own electronics subsidiary Elta
Systems, IAI’s CAEW takes the form of an extensively modified Gulfstream G550 long-range business
jet equipped with Elta’s EL/W-2085 mission suite. The package comprises a dual-band Active
Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) AEW radar; an integrated identification, Friend-or-Foe (IFF) sub-
system; supporting Electronic Support/ELectronic INTelligence (ES/ELINT) and COMmunications
INTelligence (COMINT) sub-systems; a defensive aids capability; and a multi-element
Singapore has received its first of four Gulfstream G550 business jets modified to carry airborne
early warning and control system equipment supplied by Israel Aerospace Industries’ Elta Systems
To replace the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s current four Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes,
which entered service from 1985, the G550 AEW acquisition is expected to cost the island state up to
The G550 has a longer detection range than the E-2C, with a performance greater than 370km
(200nm). Elta should complete system deliveries by 2010, while Singapore Technologies Aerospace
Engineering is to deliver training services using an unmodified G550 from 2012 under a 20-year
private finance initiative deal signed last year.
Several North African and Asian countries are showing interest in acquiring AEW aircraft. The UAE is
also considering the purchase of a system.
AIRBORNE EARLY WARNING AND BATTLE MANAGEMENT AIRCRAFT OPERATORS
COUNTRY AIRCRAFT/NUMBER IN
SQUADRON/UNIT BASE REMARKS
AUSTRALIA BOEING 737 (6 ON
2 SQUADRON RAAF
BRAZIL EMBRAER R-99A (5) 2/6 GAV ANAPOLIS
CHILE PHALCON (1) 10 GRUPO SANTIAGO
CHINA KJ-2000 26TH AIR
EGYPT NORTHROP GRUMMAN
E-2 C HAWKEYE (6)
FRANCE BOEING E-3F (4)
E-2C HAWKEYE (3)
LANN-BIHOUE NAVY – 1 MORE
GREECE EMBRAER R-99A (4) 380 MIRA ELEFSIS
INDIA ILYUSHIN IL-76 (3 ON
EMB145 (3 ON ORDER)
KAMOV KA-31 (?) NAVY
ISRAEL GULFSTREAM G-550
122 SQUADRON TEL-AVIV
ITALY AUGUSTA WESTLAND
1 GRUPO LA SPEZIA NAVY
JAPAN BOEING 767 (4)
E-2C HAWKEYE (13)
MEXICO NORTHROP GRUMMAN
E-2C HAWKEYE (3)
PRIMESCATMAR VERA CRUZ NAVY –
EMBRAER R-99A (1) EVA SANTA LUCIA
NATO BOEING E-3 (17) NAEWF GEILENKIRCHEN,
PAKISTAN SAAB 2000 (5 ON
RUSSIA IL-76 (A-50) (26)
2457TH AB SDRLU IVANOVO-SEVERNYI
BOEING E-3 SENTRY (5) 18TH SQUADRON AL KHARJ
SINGAPORE GULFSTREAM G.550 (4
111 SQUADRON TENGAH
BOEING 737 (4 ON
SPAIN SIKORSKY SH-3H (4) 5 ESCUADRILLA ROTA NAVY
SWEDEN SAAB S.100B ARGUS (6) FSR DIVISION MALMSLATT,
TAIWAN NORTHROP GRUMMAN
E-2CK/T HAWKEYE (6)
THAILAND SAAB S.100 (1 ON
ORDER & 1 OPTION)
TURKEY BOEING 737 (4) 131 FILO KONYA
USAF E-3B/C AWACS (32) 552ND ACW TINKER AFB,
U.S. NAVY E-2C/D HAWKEYE (63) VAW-77
NAS JRB NEW
NAS POINT MUGU,
NAS ATSUGI, JAPAN
24 ON ORDER,
U.K. BOEING E-3 SENTRY
SEA KING ASAC MK.7