STEENOKKERZEEL, Belgium – NATO signed a $1 billion contract with Boeing on Wednesday to modernize the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft fleet so it remains operational until 2035.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “NATO AWACS have been our eyes in the sky, supporting our airborne operations for decades.
“From patrolling American skies after 9/11, to our operations in Afghanistan, and as part of the Global Coalition against ISIS.”
He added: “The modernization will ensure NATO remains at the leading edge of technology.
“It will provide AWACS with sophisticated new communications and networking capabilities.”
Stoltenberg signed the agreement with the president of Boeing International Michael Arthur, who said the company will work in partnership with European companies.
He added that the contract is a transatlantic, North American and European association, from the industrial side.
In total, 16 of the 29 allies, on both sides of the Atlantic, are funding the modernization, including companies from Europe and North America participating in its development.
AWACS are one of the few capabilities owned by NATO.
Specifically, it is a fleet of Boeing E-3 Sentry, commonly known as AWACS, with distinctive radar domes mounted on the fuselage.
These aircraft provide the alliance with aerial surveillance, command and control, battle space management and communications.
Up to 14 of the airplanes are located at an air base in Geilenkirchen, Germany.
NATO has also proposed to acquire the so-called Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system, which will give commanders an integral perspective of a situation on the ground.
A group of 15 allied countries will acquire the AGS system, consisting of five NATO RQ-4D remote control aircraft and associated ground command and control stations of European origin, according to the organization.
NATO will operate them and will keep them on behalf of all allies.
The AGS NATO RQ-4D aircraft is based on Block 40 Global Hawk of the United States Air Force.
It has been uniquely adapted to meet the requirements of NATO, in order to provide the alliance with state-of-the-art intelligence, surveillance and recognition capability, according to the organization.