Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Military aircraft - Post cold war aircraft, including for example B-2, Gripen, F-18E/F Super Hornet, Rafale, and Typhoon.
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loke

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Unread post17 Jul 2020, 08:40

It seems South Korea is not entirely happy with their AEW&C from Boeing:

While many reports on the new AEW&C requirement have suggested that Seoul will simply order two more E-737s, there have been a number of domestic reports detailing disappointment with the Boeing aircraft. In October 2019, the South Korean daily newspaper MunhwaIlbo reported on a South Korean Air Force document that had been submitted to the Korean parliamentary National Defense Committee. It cited “frequent failures” in the period from 2015 to September 2019 that meant the E-737s had failed to meet a targeted availability rate of 75%. This lack of airframes reportedly exposed gaps in South Korea’s air defense coverage network due to aircraft being unavailable to maintain constant patrols. This is of particular concern because the E-737 is considered to be one of South Korea’s primary indigenous means of monitoring North Korean missile activity. The aircraft is also key for detecting low-flying targets and those will small radar signatures, which are a big threat to South Korea.


https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/3 ... dar-planes

Interestingly Australia seems to start thinking about Wedgetail replacement already.
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boogieman

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Unread post20 Jul 2020, 03:26

The RAAF have been very happy with the E-7 AFAIK, with multiple successful deployments to the MEAO, Red Flag etc. The replacement won’t come online for at least another 15 years, so I don’t take it as a sign of dissatisfaction with the type.

http://defense-studies.blogspot.com/202 ... fleet.html
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noth

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Unread post20 Jul 2020, 07:17

What are the alternatives? Airbus can't get European customers to commit to an MPA version of the A320, let alone an AEW version. Anyone who goes down the alternative route will have to invest probably for 10 years to get a platform, and preferably one that's not bespoke but actually sells to multiple customers (NATO's E-3s will need changing at some point, and they're what most of Europe relies on for AEW). Also the radar + internal gear suppliers, how many of those can do the AEW stuff? I'm horribly reminded of the Nimrod AEW.3 project of the 70s...
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Unread post20 Jul 2020, 12:31

There are a lot of commercial aircraft being EQ'd from the coronavirus backlash. Quite a few wide-bodies with relatively low hours on them are out there. Surely a choice of airframes is not the problem.
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boogieman

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Unread post20 Jul 2020, 12:50

I wouldn't be surprised if there is a bit of deliberation to be done regarding what an AEW&C aircraft ought to do/look like post ~2035. They are arguably already challenged by red team A2/AD capabilities (heavy EW + VLRAAM + HIMAD etc).

I have to wonder whether it will suffice to simply fit the most modern sensor suite available to another more modern airliner or whether a distributed fleet of smaller, more numerous (signature reduced) UAS might be more useful.
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marauder2048

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Unread post20 Jul 2020, 19:51

boogieman wrote:I wouldn't be surprised if there is a bit of deliberation to be done regarding what an AEW&C aircraft ought to do/look like post ~2035. They are arguably already challenged by red team A2/AD capabilities (heavy EW + VLRAAM + HIMAD etc).

I have to wonder whether it will suffice to simply fit the most modern sensor suite available to another more modern airliner or whether a distributed fleet of smaller, more numerous (signature reduced) UAS might be more useful.


I would think the more natural progression would be bi/multi-static AWACS using the existing platforms
and signature reduced UAV receivers near the target area.

You drop LPI/LPD modes for the transmitter and just blast at max-power to get the max range extension.
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boogieman

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Unread post20 Jul 2020, 21:19

marauder2048 wrote:
boogieman wrote:I wouldn't be surprised if there is a bit of deliberation to be done regarding what an AEW&C aircraft ought to do/look like post ~2035. They are arguably already challenged by red team A2/AD capabilities (heavy EW + VLRAAM + HIMAD etc).

I have to wonder whether it will suffice to simply fit the most modern sensor suite available to another more modern airliner or whether a distributed fleet of smaller, more numerous (signature reduced) UAS might be more useful.


I would think the more natural progression would be bi/multi-static AWACS using the existing platforms
and signature reduced UAV receivers near the target area.

You drop LPI/LPD modes for the transmitter and just blast at max-power to get the max range extension.

Yeah that does sound interesting. Perhaps you could also use 5th (and 6th) gen aircraft as receivers. FWIW I am not ruling out a continuation of the airliner based trend, as an A350/787 based platform kitted out with state-of-the-art-in-2035 sensors could still be compelling. It would just be a question of whether you could safely operate it close enough to the FEBA in the prevailing threat environment or whether something with more sig reduction would be needed. Even then, it might be fair to question the relevance of sig reduction on a platform whose job description involves blasting large doses of RF radiation into the most contested pockets of airspace, but alas, I am happy to leave that calculus to the experts.
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marauder2048

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Unread post20 Jul 2020, 23:15

boogieman wrote:Yeah that does sound interesting. Perhaps you could also use 5th (and 6th) gen aircraft as receivers. FWIW I am not ruling out a continuation of the airliner based trend, as an A350/787 based platform kitted out with state-of-the-art-in-2035 sensors could still be compelling. It would just be a question of whether you could safely operate it close enough to the FEBA in the prevailing threat environment or whether something with more sig reduction would be needed. Even then, it might be fair to question the relevance of sig reduction on a platform whose job description involves blasting large doses of RF radiation into the most contested pockets of airspace, but alas, I am happy to leave that calculus to the experts.



The issue with the A350/787 is their high fixed cost is premised on lower O&S that the military will never see
since annual flying hours for AWACS averages around 700 hours; typical annual commercial wide body hours are
in the 3000 hours range.

Sig reduction would still be desirable assuming you could proliferate a network of stealthy UAV with distributed radar;
the latter is a time-on-target approach where each node emits on a schedule such that the wavefronts of all
emitters in the network combine additively at the target.

This would permit individual nodes to retain LPI/LPD modes but still permit good gains (potential cubic in the number of
emitter nodes in the network). It's something that the Navy is experimenting with for different SPY-6 nodes; airborne
versions would be very challenging but doable.
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boogieman

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Unread post20 Jul 2020, 23:35

marauder2048 wrote:
boogieman wrote:Yeah that does sound interesting. Perhaps you could also use 5th (and 6th) gen aircraft as receivers. FWIW I am not ruling out a continuation of the airliner based trend, as an A350/787 based platform kitted out with state-of-the-art-in-2035 sensors could still be compelling. It would just be a question of whether you could safely operate it close enough to the FEBA in the prevailing threat environment or whether something with more sig reduction would be needed. Even then, it might be fair to question the relevance of sig reduction on a platform whose job description involves blasting large doses of RF radiation into the most contested pockets of airspace, but alas, I am happy to leave that calculus to the experts.



The issue with the A350/787 is their high fixed cost is premised on lower O&S that the military will never see
since annual flying hours for AWACS averages around 700 hours; typical annual commercial wide body hours are
in the 3000 hours range.

Sig reduction would still be desirable assuming you could proliferate a network of stealthy UAV with distributed radar;
the latter is a time-on-target approach where each node emits on a schedule such that the wavefronts of all
emitters in the network combine additively at the target.

This would permit individual nodes to retain LPI/LPD modes but still permit good gains (potential cubic in the number of
emitter nodes in the network). It's something that the Navy is experimenting with for different SPY-6 nodes; airborne
versions would be very challenging but doable.

Right, in which case you might be looking at something more akin to an MQ25 (perhaps scaled up somewhat) using conformal radar arrays alongside whatever passive sensor suite was desired. You might then aim to overcome the smaller individual sensor footprint (vs a traditional AEW&C design) via a larger number of (networked) aircraft, greater proximity to the FEBA (permitted by LO) and co-operative sensor employment (eg. virtual arrays & co-operative IRST) like you described.

I can see a lot of merit in it theoretically, as each node ought to be more survivable and the network itself ought to be more resilient to individual losses. The only hurdles I can see are how costly the capability would be to implement, how well it would perform in the presence of enemy EW (ie. can you achieve the threshold amount of RF output needed, especially in the presence of son-of-Krasukha etc) and whether there is still a need for a manned platform that can house human controllers for the direction and coordination of the air picture, or if simply disseminating said air picture via datalink will be sufficient post-2035.
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weasel1962

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Unread post21 Jul 2020, 10:29

An option that a few users are reviewing are aerostats (whether tethered or otherwise). Although it can't fly far, the aerostat provides persistent long ranged AEW over the course of days, and not hours. Maintenance costs etc are far cheaper.

It reduces peacetime usage of AWACs and offer redeployable radar if there is a risk of conflict. Potentially ideal from a defensive air control standpoint e.g. Korea's case.
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boogieman

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Unread post21 Jul 2020, 12:58

Yes ever since JLENS died the interest in aerostats seemed to decline. Something like the EL/M-2083 strikes me as potentially quite useful in rear echelon areas and/or covering high value sites. Seems promising for dealing with the LACM threat. One wonders if the Abqaiq attack could have been thwarted if the Saudis had a suitable aerostat nearby...
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Unread post21 Jul 2020, 23:59

Contracts For July 21, 2020
AIR FORCE

Raytheon Co. Missile Systems, Tucson, Arizona, has been awarded a $375,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for a miniature self-defense missile. The contract provides for the research and development of a flight-test ready missile. The first task order is $93,380,234. Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, and is expected to be completed by October 2023. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received. Fiscal 2020 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $26,712,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Research Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, is the contracting activity (FA8651-20-D-0001).



If you are concerned about protecting high value targets like AEW&C platforms...
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madrat

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Unread post22 Jul 2020, 00:22

weasel1962 wrote:An option that a few users are reviewing are aerostats (whether tethered or otherwise). Although it can't fly far, the aerostat provides persistent long ranged AEW over the course of days, and not hours. Maintenance costs etc are far cheaper.

It reduces peacetime usage of AWACs and offer redeployable radar if there is a risk of conflict. Potentially ideal from a defensive air control standpoint e.g. Korea's case.


Wouldn't it be interesting to be able to drop radio-emitters that deploy instant balloons OR WINGS to stay afloat? Something akin to sonobuoys, only for the atmosphere. Beacons. Infrared lights. Spinning laser emitters. Just something to momentarily illuminate proximal bogeys. And the senors to pick up these minute reflections just might transmit to a master device...

Image
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boogieman

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Unread post22 Jul 2020, 03:16

marauder2048 wrote:
Contracts For July 21, 2020
AIR FORCE

Raytheon Co. Missile Systems, Tucson, Arizona, has been awarded a $375,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for a miniature self-defense missile. The contract provides for the research and development of a flight-test ready missile. The first task order is $93,380,234. Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, and is expected to be completed by October 2023. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received. Fiscal 2020 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $26,712,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Research Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, is the contracting activity (FA8651-20-D-0001).



If you are concerned about protecting high value targets like AEW&C platforms...


Yes I remember reading about MSDM some time ago. Sounds promising, although if I was onboard a valuable ISR aircraft I think I’d prefer to avoid being shot at in the first place rather than rely on an interceptor (however capable) to defeat any inbound PL21/PL15/R37 shots…

Out of interest have you heard anything about what is going to happen with the USAF E3 fleet? It strikes me as odd that they are still soldiering on with AN/APY1 & 2 into the foreseeable future. I would have thought those radars were starting to show their age by now, especially in terms of modern EW resistance.
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Unread post22 Jul 2020, 20:46

boogieman wrote:Yes I remember reading about MSDM some time ago. Sounds promising, although if I was onboard a valuable ISR aircraft I think I’d prefer to avoid being shot at in the first place rather than rely on an interceptor (however capable) to defeat any inbound PL21/PL15/R37 shots…


Not sure I understand; AWACS do have defensive suites for a reason.

boogieman wrote:I would have thought those radars were starting to show their age by now, especially in terms of modern EW resistance.


This is based on what exactly?
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