Posts Tagged ‘Upgrade’

Overhauling the KC-135 Tanker

March 8, 2009

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It’s looking like the KC-135 fleet will need an expensive re-skinning circa 2018, says Air Mobility Command boss Gen. Art Lichte. The projection was actually made in 2000 by an independent study of airlifter longevity, but the study has proved remarkably prescient, he noted and added that the prediction still looks valid. As it is, the KC-135s need a $7 million depot maintenance every five years, but the cost and complexity of each visit is growing significantly, Air Force Magazine quotes Lichte. The re-skinning would be a “major re-build” and wouldn’t buy very much in terms of extra years of use, since other aspects of the aircraft would still be Eisenhower vintage. Stepping up the pace at which the new KC-X tanker is bought would diminish the number of re-skins necessary, but Lichte restated the Pentagon’s position that buying two different tankers at once—the only way to skip the re-skins entirely since the more aircraft would be available sooner—is unaffordable, reports Air Force Magazine.

Boeing Completes AWACS Block 40/45 Upgrade Tests

September 10, 2008


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Boeing has completed mission system flight testing for Block 40/45, the largest upgrade in the history of the U.S. E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) fleet.

During a 15-month period from April 2007 to July 2008, Boeing and the Air Force’s Joint Test Force flew missions aboard Test System 3, an AWACS test aircraft, to complete the System Design and Development program.

“Test data indicate the Block 40/45 system meets or exceeds all its key performance parameters and technical performance requirements,” said Stu Oliason, 40/45 System Design and Development program manager for Boeing.

“The success of this flight-test program is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of hundreds of 40/45 employees. We’re all very excited about bringing this new capability to the warfighter,” Oliason added.

Under the Block 40/45 program, the aircraft’s legacy mainframe computer has been replaced with an open system architecture using network servers in a user-friendly operating environment. The vastly improved computing power helps automate what is currently a manually intensive workload for the AWACS operators.

A multisource integration capability automates the process of detecting and identifying targets to provide a single-target/single-track resolution. Outgoing tasking messages are automatically prioritized via a data link infrastructure. Features are displayed to operators on the Primary AWACS Display in a user-friendly, intuitive manner. The numerous buttons and switches around the current operator console have been replaced with point-and-click simplicity and a display featuring drop-down menus and rapid access to all required information. This functionality shortens the time required to execute either combat or search-and-rescue missions.

The cumulative benefit of the Block 40/45 upgrade is to increase overall mission effectiveness for AWACS operators in the 21st-century battlespace, while boosting the reliability of the mission system and lowering life-cycle costs. The baseline capability is designed to allow future upgrades.

The Air Force is expected to make a decision on the next step — a Block 40/45 production contract — by the end of this year.