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ACC: Air Force To Decide On AWACS Recap Or Upgrade In FY-19

Appropriators add E-3 retirement hurdle

The Air Force expects to make a decision on whether to upgrade or replace its fleet of E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft in fiscal year 2019, according to a time line provided by Air Combat Command.

In a statement to Inside the Air Force on June 3, Air Combat Command (ACC) spokesman Benjamin Newell confirmed that the service will begin a capability assessment relating to the AWACS mission as early as FY-15, which is an initial step toward developing an upgrade or replacement strategy for the 30-year-old E-3 fleet.

The Air Force has already committed to a replacement program for the comparable E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) platform starting in FY-15, and the first two of those aircraft are due for delivery by 2020. Replacing the AWACS would be a natural next step since both airborne command-and-control capabilities are built on old Boeing 707 airframes. The first E-3 entered service in 1977.