E-3 Sentry (AWACS)

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The E-3 Sentry is an airborne warning and control system, or AWACS, aircraft with an integrated command and control battle management, or C2BM, surveillance, target detection, and tracking platform.  The aircraft provides an accurate, real-time picture of the battlespace to the Joint Air Operations Center. AWACS provides situational awareness of friendly, neutral and hostile activity, command and control of an area of responsibility, battle management of theater forces, all-altitude and all-weather surveillance of the battle space, and early warning of enemy actions during joint, allied, and coalition operations.

The E-3 Sentry is a modified Boeing 707/320 commercial airframe with a rotating radar dome. The dome is 30 feet (9.1 meters) in diameter, six feet (1.8 meters) thick, and is held 11 feet (3.33 meters) above the fuselage by two struts. It contains a radar subsystem that permits surveillance from the Earth’s surface up into the stratosphere, over land or water. The radar has a range of more than 250 miles (375.5 kilometers). The radar combined with an identification friend or foe, or IFF, subsystem can look down to detect, identify and track enemy and friendly low-flying aircraft by eliminating ground clutter returns that confuse other radar systems.

General characteristics

Primary function: airborne battle management, command and control

Contractor: Boeing Aerospace Co.

Power plant: four Pratt and Whitney TF33-PW-100A turbofan engines

Thrust: 20,500 pounds each engine at sea level

Rotodome: 30 feet in diameter (9.1 meters), 6 feet thick (1.8 meters), mounted 11 feet (3.33 meters) above fuselage

Wingspan: 145 feet, 9 inches (44.4 meters)

Length: 152 feet, 11 inches (46.6 meters)

Height: 41 feet, 9 inches (13 meters)

Weight: 205,000 pounds (zero fuel) (92,986 kilograms)  Maximum Takeoff Weight: 325,000 pounds (147,418 kilograms)  Fuel Capacity: 21,000 gallons (79,494 liters)

Speed: optimum cruise 360 mph (Mach 0.48)

Range: more than 5,000 nautical miles (9,250 kilometers)

Ceiling: Above 29,000 feet (8,788 meters)

Crew: flight crew of four plus mission crew of 13-19 specialists (mission crew size varies according to mission) Unit Cost: $270 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)  Initial operating capability: April 1978