Japan E-767 AWACS to undergo first major upgrade

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass -- The Electronic Systems Center here awarded a $116 million Radar System Improvement Program production contract Nov. 8 to the Boeing Company to upgrade Japan's fleet of four E-767 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft.

This is the first major upgrade to Japan's E-767 AWACS fleet since delivery of the aircraft in the late '90s.

With the RSIP, Japan will fulfill an operational requirement to upgrade their E-767 radar system to maintain commonality and interoperability with the U.S. and international E-3 AWACS fleets.

"The increase in the sensitivity of the radar associated with RSIP directly increases the range at which a target of given size is detected by the radar," said Karen Munroe, Japan E-767 AWACS program manager. "This effectively results in expanded surveillance coverage volume, or simply put, seeing further. In fact, the moniker of the U.S. Air Force E-3 AWACS RSIP program was Sharpening the Eyes of the Eagle, and with the E-767 RSIP upgrade, we are doing the same for the Japan Air Self Defense Force."

In addition to performance enhancements, RSIP will provide significant reliability and maintainability improvements, Ms. Munroe said.

The Japan E-767 AWACS program follows four others that have already achieved RSIP Full Operational Capability. The NATO fleet achieved FOC in January 2000; United Kingdom's Royal Air Force in December 2000; the U.S. Air Force in December 2004; and France in June 2006.

"This milestone culminates a multi-year effort to get the Foreign Military Sale case established and award the contract for this critically needed capability for the Japan E-767 AWACS fleet," said Brian Schultz, ESC 551 ELSG International Programs Division deputy director.

The RSIP kits, built principally by Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems under a subcontract to Boeing, consist of a new radar computer and a radar control maintenance panel, as well as software upgrades to the radar and mission systems programs.

This contract will provide the RSIP kits, spares and other logistic support. In September 2010, Japan will sign a subsequent Letter of Agreement for the RSIP Installation and Checkout, which is scheduled for completion in the October 2012 timeframe. The total value of the RSIP upgrade is approximately $270 million.

Japan acquired its E-767 AWACS under a combined Direct Commercial Sale Foreign Military Sales program. The modified 767-200ER aircraft were procured from Boeing through direct commercial sale. The mission systems, ground systems, testing and installation and check-out were procured under an FMS contract.

The Japan E-767 RSIP is the first such upgrade on an E-767 AWACS; the others have been installed on 707 platforms. To mitigate risk, engineers will conduct tailored data collection flights at the start of Installation and Check-out.

"The data collection flights will allow us to assess the potential impact of platform differences," said Chris Yabut, of the MITRE Corp., ESC's lead engineer for Japan's E-767 AWACS program.

"We're very excited about moving forward on the RSIP upgrade," Ms. Munroe said. "There's tremendous benefit for the JASDF and for the international community."