Last E-3A Aircraft modified
The last modified E-3A AWACS aircraft tail number 451 arrived at NATO Airbase Geilenkirchen. The arrival completes the Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/ Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) modification program. The aircraft had undergone modifications to the cockpit, referred to as a glass cockpit. The upgrade included five full-color digital displays, replacing analogue instruments. These avionics based on 1970s technology have become more difficult to sustain (out of production), so the modernization efforts replaced those pieces of hardware with current industry technology.
The improvements provide for the handling and transfer of information, extended surveillance, and improved navigational accuracy, which is required to operate in regions of ever-increasing airspace congestion, as well as mastering increasing challenges posed by diminishing manufacturing sources (DMS). These digital capabilities also allow NATO to consolidate crew responsibilities. .
The aircraft is the final of 14 modified aircraft. The first modernized NATO AWACS aircraft was modified at Boeing facilities in Seattle and delivered to NATO in November 2016. The remaining 13 aircraft underwent modernization work in Manching, Germany. During a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the final CNS /ATM program, the NAEW&C Force Commander Major General Jürgen Lebert and NAPMA General manager Michael Gschossmann spoke out their appreciation to all personnel involved.
NATO's AWACS fleet is the alliance's first integrated, multinational flying unit, providing rapid deployment, airborne surveillance and command and control for NATO operations.