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Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS)

Saudi E-3 AWACS

The Peace Sentinel program for Saudi Arabia began in 1981. It included five AWACS aircraft and six E-3 derivative (KE-3) inflight refueling tanker aircraft, along with spare parts, trainers and support equipment. In 1984, the Saudi government exercised an option to increase the tanker order to eight.

The first Saudi E-3 was delivered in June 1986, with deliveries of the remaining E-3s and tankers completed by September 1987. In addition to building the aircraft, Boeing assists in operating and maintaining the AWACS and tankers in Saudi Arabia. Boeing has issued subcontracts to three Saudi companies to assist in this support work.

In August 2001, Boeing began installing new mission computers and other hardware and software on the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) AWACS fleet, as part of a contract worth $60 million. Under the contract, Boeing upgraded the aircraft's mission computer and software to the same level currently in use by the U.S. AWACS fleet and provide RSAF operator training. Upgrading the five AWACS aircraft was completed in 2003.

In 2008, Boeing completed a major communications upgrade on the first of five Saudi E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft as part of a $49.2 million contract.

Installation and checkout of the aircraft were performed at the Boeing Military Flight Center in Seattle. The enhancement, known as Link 16, is a secure, jam-resistant, digital data link that allows military aircraft, ships and ground units to exchange tactical pictures in near real time.

Link 16 also supports the exchange of text messages and imagery data and provides additional channels for digital voice. The Link 16 AWACS upgrade is the first in a series of anticipated technology upgrades to the Saudi AWACS fleet.

This powerful capability provides the Saudi fleet with a secure data and voice link, allowing direct communication between their AWACS aircraft and forward-positioned fighter aircraft, Boeing partner Alsalam Aircraft Co. will upgrade the remaining four aircraft in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with Boeing on-site support. The fleet upgrade is scheduled to be completed in December 2009.

The Royal Saudi Air Force is also pursuing a multi phase Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) similar to other AWACS users. Phase 1 is the design and long lead parts initiative with Phase 2 as the production program. The Phase 1 contract was awarded in 2008. A Phase 2 contract will be awarded in the 3rd quarter of 2009. This will bring the Saudi AWACS configuration in line with the rest of the world-wide AWACS fleets for secure data links and radar enhancements.

Saudi, French and U.K. E-3 Specifications