E-767 AWACS Grows Up
December 15, 2010: Japan is upgrading its ten-year old AWACS (Air Warning And Control) aircraft. Unlike U.S. AWACS, that are based on the 60 year old Boeing 707, the Japanese AWACS is built on the 30 year old Boeing 767. The 767 has 50 percent more floor space and twice the internal volume of the 707. The Japanese AWACS will get the latest radar and electronics improvements, which will make the systems cheaper to maintain and more reliable, as well as easier to use. The upgrades will cost over $50 million for each of Japan's four AWACS.
It was two years ago that the U.S. Air Force completed testing its latest E-3 AWACS upgrades. This Block 40/45 version consists largely of replacing the 1980s era computers and electronics with modern gear. This also makes it possible to more quickly upgrade hardware and software (often using off-the-shelf commercial stuff) in the future. Most visibly, the new software eliminates most of the hundreds of switches and knobs that surrounded the monitors and keyboards of the old model. Not only are many operations automated, using many functions are now point-and-click on a screen, not a separate switch.
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