Hanscom division upgrades Saudi AWACS

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – The International Airborne Battle Management Command and Control Division here has completed a significant radar upgrade for the Royal Saudi Air Force.

According to program officials, the RSAF Airborne Warning and Control System Radar System Improvement Program, or RSIP, enhances radar performance characteristics, adds new capabilities, improves user interface and reliability and lowers life cycle costs for the Kingdom’s E-3A AWACS aircraft.

“The RSIP upgrade brings the Royal Saudi Air Force fleet to a modern baseline, with multiple radar modes enabling increased operational flexibility with the U.S. and coalition partners,” said Christopher Tanglaw, program manager.

Following successful flight testing, the fifth and final aircraft modification was completed and delivered to the RSAF on Dec. 21. A formal delivery ceremony took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, earlier in December.

Tanglaw said that this is the most significant radar upgrade to the RSAF AWACS fleet. It enhances the operational capability of the radar against the growing threats posed by smaller targets and electronic countermeasures.

“This battle-proven operational capability has demonstrated consistent improved performance and reliability,” he said.

The work included radar system hardware and software improvements and new processing algorithms.

The case value is approximately $400 million and contractors include The Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman Corp., and Alsalam Aerospace Industries in Saudi Arabia.

Due to the complexities involved with this foreign military sales program, the U.S. Air Force designated an AWACS Security Assistance program manager to serve as a single focal point with the RSAF on all AWACS issues.

“Having this position enables increased communication and responsiveness between the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force, ultimately strengthening our partnership,” said Christopher Lind, Security Assistance program manager.

The program office at Hanscom is already looking forward to its future work, with officials indicating there is a lot more activity planned for the RSAF AWACS aircraft throughout the next few years.

“Saudi Arabia is a partner in the Middle East,” said Col. Lea Kirkwood, chief of the International Airborne Battle Management Command and Control Division. “The U.S. Air Force is preparing to bring the next upgrade to the fleet with the RSAF AWACS Modernization Program, or RAMP.”

RAMP is the largest ever single upgrade and will modernize the fleet with the latest capabilities, such as mission system computing, and extend operational capability through 2035, she said.