French E-3 AWACS
The E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) was selected to meet the primary airborne early warning requirements of the Republic of France. Regarded as the world's standard for airborne early warning, the E-3 was designed and delivered by Boeing Defense & Space Group, with headquarters in Kent, Wash. The four French Air Force E-3s perform both airborne surveillance and command and control (C2) functions.
The first French AWACS left the factory early in 1990. Deliveries began in May 1991 and ended in February 1992.
France's selection of the E-3 began with initial discussions with Boeing concerning system capabilities in the late 1970s. In June 1982, an extensive E-3 demonstration was successfully conducted in France. It led to the E-3's selection as the candidate system for the French AEW mission.
The French Ministry of Defence participated in the United Kingdom's 1986 AEW competition, and in February 1987 awarded Boeing a direct contract to provide three E-3s. In August 1987, the French MOD exercised a contract option for a fourth aircraft.
The French E-3s were produced in the AWACS standard configuration, with some system improvements, and are powered by GE/SNECMA CFM-56-2 high-efficiency, turbofan engines. Enhancements added to meet France's unique mission requirements include a probe refueling system to augment the existing boom receptacle for inflight refueling, a digital recorder for mission audio transmissions and improved radio equipment.
The French adopted the U.S. (Boeing) electronic support measures (ESM) system as their first major E-3 upgrade. Boeing was awarded a contract to install ESM in March 1998. The first kit was delivered later that year and the entire fleet was upgraded with ESM by December 2000.
ESM is a passive listening and detection system, which enables the AWACS to detect, identify and track electronic transmissions from ground, airborne and maritime sources. Using the ESM system, mission operators can determine radar and weapons system type.
In February 2002, Boeing received a contract to upgrade the French AWACS fleet with Radar System Improvement Program ( RSIP) kits. RSIP improves the AWACS radar by increasing its sensitivity, boosting the electronic counter-countermeasures capability and improving its reliability.
Boeing, as prime contractor and systems integrator, shipped the modification kits to Air France Industries beginning in the spring of 2004. AFI, under a contract to Boeing, performed the installation and checkout at its facility in Le Bourget, France. Installation was completed in 2006. Boeing flight-tested the upgraded aircraft at the French AWACS main operating base in Avord, France.
Since delivery of their aircraft, France has maintained engineering services contracts with Boeing to ensure timely fleet support. These include service letters, technical publication updates and technical problem resolution.
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