Airborne Early Warning Systems

NATO E-3 AWACSUntil May 1991, the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) was carried on board militarized 707s. In December of the same year Boeing announced it would offer a modified 767 commercial jetliner as the platform for the system. The first 767 AWACS, designated E-767, made its first flight Aug. 9, 1996, with the distinctive 30-foot rotodome mounted atop its fuselage. The government of Japan ordered the first four 767 AWACS, with deliveries scheduled to start in 1998.

AWACS is the world's standard for airborne early warning systems. It supplies tactical and air defense forces with surveillance and command and control communications. Its flexible, multimode radar, in a rotating radome mounted above the fuselage, allows AWACS to separate maritime and airborne targets from ground and sea clutter. It has a 360-degree view of an area and at operating altitudes can detect, identify and display targets more than 200 miles away.

By 1994, 68 707 AWACS E-3 aircraft were in service worldwide with the United States, NATO, Saudi Arabia, France and the United Kingdom. E-3 AWACS provided airborne surveillance and command and control functions over Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. They also supported Operation Noble Eagle protecting the United States.

tacamoAssembled on the same on the same production line as the E-3 was the E-6 TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out), also based on the Boeing 707 airframe. The U.S. Navy awarded Boeing a full-scale development contract for the E-6A in 1983 and the prototype E-6A rolled out from the Renton, Wash., factory in December 1986. First flight was in February 1987. Delivery of the first production aircraft was in August 1989, with delivery of the final airplane in May 1992. Boeing delivered a total of 16 E-6 "survivable airborne communication system" airplanes to the U.S. Navy from 1989 to 1992. The TACAMO airplanes support the Navy's ballistic missile submarine force, providing a vital link to the force from national command authorities.

In February 1997, the company announced that it would offer a 737-700 as the platform for an Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system for the Royal Australian Air Force. Named "Wedgetail" in honor of Australia's native eagle, the 737 AEW&C platform would be completely interoperable with the E-3 and 767 AWACS aircraft. Joining Boeing and Boeing Australia Limited on the Wedgetail team were Northrop Grumman Electronic Sensors and Systems Division and British Aerospace Australia.

AWACS home page | 737 AEW&C page | E-6 TACAMO home page

First flight: May 25, 1976 (E-3A with full mission avionics)
Model number: 707 airframe (E-3)
Classification: Airborne Warning and Control System
Span: 145 feet 9 inches
Length: 152 feet 11 inches
Gross weight: 325,000 pounds
Top speed: 530 mph
Endurance: 6 hours at 1,000 miles from base
Ceiling: More than 29,000 feet
Power: Four 21,000-pound-thrust turbofan P&W TF-33 engines
Accommodation: 4 crew, 13 to 18 AWACS specialists