Reuters, quoting general manager of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization agency that manages the AWACS fleet Michael Gschossmann, reported the alliance might switch to the E-7 Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) aircraft to replace the aging Boeing E-3A surveillance aircraft.
Michael Gschossmann told Reuters NATO could follow the lead of member states Britain and Turkey in purchasing the E-7, a newer radar plane also built by Boeing. Those aircraft, he said, were large enough to add potential new capabilities, such as operating drones for expanded surveillance, in coming years.
The E-7 is based on a Boeing 737-700, with the addition of an advanced Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar, and 10 state-of-the-art mission crew consoles which can track airborne and maritime targets simultaneously.
It is a highly advanced aircraft, providing an airborne early warning and control platform that can gather information from a wide variety of sources, analyse it, and distribute it to other assets.
The E-7 can:
- control the tactical battle space;
- provide direction for assets in the air, at sea and on land; and
- support aircraft such as tankers and intelligence platforms.
Also, Michael Gschossmann noted that France and the United States could potentially buy E-7 planes in coming years, which could lower costs by generating larger order quantities.
“Why don’t we bet on the proven technology that we already have in the E-7 and provide NATO with a certain number of those aircraft? That would give us a basic capability that could be expanded in the future,” he said.