Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 17 Jul 2020, 08:40
by loke
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.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 20 Jul 2020, 03:26
by boogieman
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

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 20 Jul 2020, 07:17
by noth
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...

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 20 Jul 2020, 12:31
by madrat
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.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 20 Jul 2020, 12:50
by boogieman
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.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 20 Jul 2020, 19:51
by marauder2048
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.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 20 Jul 2020, 21:19
by boogieman
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.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 20 Jul 2020, 23:15
by marauder2048
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.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 20 Jul 2020, 23:35
by boogieman
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.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 21 Jul 2020, 10:29
by weasel1962
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.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 21 Jul 2020, 12:58
by boogieman
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...

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 21 Jul 2020, 23:59
by marauder2048
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...

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 22 Jul 2020, 00:22
by madrat
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

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 22 Jul 2020, 03:16
by boogieman
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.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 22 Jul 2020, 20:46
by marauder2048
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?

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 22 Jul 2020, 22:02
by boogieman
marauder2048 wrote:Not sure I understand; AWACS do have defensive suites for a reason.

Of course, just wondering whether the addition of MSDM to the defensive suites of existing AWACS aircraft will be sufficient to allow them to function in the presence of a peer threat equipped with modern LO aircraft and VLRAAM 10-15 years from now. There is a decent run-down of the problem I am referencing here: (eg. p118)

isr.jpg

https://csbaonline.org/research/publica ... lication/1
marauder2048 wrote:This is based on what exactly?

The fact that they are ~40 year old PESA designs and that more modern EW systems like Krasukha 2 & 4 have been developed specifically to target them (ref p52):

https://www.foi.se/rest-api/report/FOI-R--4625--SE

Details are scarce on whether or not the PRC has similar EW assets at its disposal but, then again, information on Chinese EW platforms is scarce in general. Suffice it to say I wouldn't be shocked to find they have similar systems in their inventory. I would have expected a shift to more modern AESA arrays on E3 by now for improved jam resistance, LPI/LPD etc. (?)

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 22 Jul 2020, 23:12
by marauder2048
CSBA is assuming that the E-3 is hosting some GMTI radar which will necessarily enhance its vulnerability
to both ground based jammers and enemy interceptors given typical GMTI collection geometries.

APY-2 was practically compute limited until very recently. I've got more confidence in 30 years of STAP development
providing high resistance to ground based jammers (which have to shoot-and-scoot to have any hope of survival).

If survivability against ground based jammers really becomes a concern you'll see lower operating altitudes for AWACS;
that's perfectly fine since Red's land attack threat tends not to be of the very-low altitude/very low observable
type. And performance against higher altitude threats won't be much impacted.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 22 Jul 2020, 23:52
by boogieman
marauder2048 wrote:APY-2 was practically compute limited until very recently. I've got more confidence in 30 years of STAP development
providing high resistance to ground based jammers (which have to shoot-and-scoot to have any hope of survival).

...as well as sit behind layers of red IADS rings. There are of course airborne jammers to add to the equation as well (GX-11, Il22-PP, Su34, J-15D/16D). FWIW I do take your point - for example a ground based jammer would have to be within ~210nm of an AWACS aircraft operating at FL30 to achieve LOS and jam it - but I am still left wondering what those same 30 years of STAP development could achieve on a more modern AESA set. Perhaps it is not seen as a needed capability for now.

marauder2048 wrote:If survivability against ground based jammers really becomes a concern you'll see lower operating altitudes for AWACS;
that's perfectly fine since Red's land attack threat tends not to be of the very-low altitude/very low observable
type
. And performance against higher altitude threats won't be much impacted.

Hmm I'm not so sure about that. The Russians continue to invest in Kalibr/Kh555/59/101 variants, and the Chinese have plenty of CJ10s and their derivatives to throw around. Granted, there seems to be greater investment in supersonic/ballistic land attack missiles, but the LACM threat is still very much there.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 23 Jul 2020, 02:01
by marauder2048
boogieman wrote:...as well as sit behind layers of red IADS rings. There are of course airborne jammers to add to the equation as well (GX-11, Il22-PP, Su34, J-15D/16D). FWIW I do take your point - for example a ground based jammer would have to be within ~210nm of an AWACS aircraft operating at FL30 to achieve LOS and jam it - but I am still left wondering what those same 30 years of STAP development could achieve on a more modern AESA set. Perhaps it is not seen as a needed capability for now.


They've been waiting on affordable element-level digital beam forming + T/R modules of sufficient
power density at S-band that also meet volume, weight and mil spec durability reqs.

Last I checked, they still aren't there at least per what the usual T/R module suspects & Co. advertise or describe in papers.


boogieman wrote:Hmm I'm not so sure about that. The Russians continue to invest in Kalibr/Kh555/59/101 variants, and the Chinese have plenty of CJ10s and their derivatives to throw around. Granted, there seems to be greater investment in supersonic/ballistic land attack missiles, but the LACM threat is still very much there.


None of those are VLO right?

It doesn't look they've yet followed the route the US took starting with ACM against the emerging Soviet AWACS threat.
The Navy envisions facing a VLO/VLA threat since in the open ocean (with no terrain masking) the options come down to
that or high-speed/higher altitude with an optional low-alt terminal phase.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 23 Jul 2020, 02:25
by boogieman
marauder2048 wrote:They've been waiting on affordable element-level digital beam forming + T/R modules of sufficient
power density at S-band that also meet volume, weight and mil spec durability reqs.

Last I checked, they still aren't there at least per what the usual T/R module suspects & Co. advertise or describe in papers.

Ah hah! Now this makes more sense. Given what has been accomplished with the UHF band AN/APY-9 on E2D, I would have expected something similar to appear on the E3.
marauder2048 wrote:None of those are VLO right?
It doesn't look they've yet followed the route the US took starting with ACM against the emerging Soviet AWACS threat.
The Navy envisions facing a VLO/VLA threat since in the open ocean (with no terrain masking) the options come down to
that or high-speed/higher altitude with an optional low-alt terminal phase.

Kh101 and Kh59MK2 are definitely LO, although I am not sure if their RCS figures qualify them for VLO status. CJ10 family are non-VLO Tomahawk analogues. Knowing the PRC an LO equivalent shouldn't be too far away.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 23 Jul 2020, 08:21
by element1loop
loke wrote:Interestingly Australia seems to start thinking about Wedgetail replacement already.


Wedgetail's Phase 6 upgrade is pending approval and is due to go to a competition in 2028. While the initial replacement project phase is not scheduled to commence until 2029, probably in service somewhere around 2040. i.e. a planned replacement of worn out aircraft in the 2040s. Wedgetail's a completely different development and integration direction to whatever the Koreans or Turks did with it.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 23 Jul 2020, 08:37
by element1loop
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.


I don't see how aerostats hold station in a +100 knot jetstream flow for days without consuming a whole lot of fuel and requiring a much heavier structure against moderate to severe turbulence. Altitude matters, so flying at lower level is out, and you'd just need 4 times as many aerostats. And now you're flying in even more convective and disrupted air. I don't think aerostats can ever be that solution, nor can they withdraw at 480 knots to survive.

BTW, some of the highest speed and most persistent jetstream flows on earth pass directly over South Korea.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 23 Jul 2020, 12:28
by boogieman
Pretty sure Singapore uses an aerostat based radar system as part of their national IADS set-up, albeit at 2000ft which is a little less ambitious than JLENS was. Gives a radar horizon of ~55nm which might work for such a tiny place.

Article.pdf
(1.6 MiB) Downloaded 246 times

EL/M-2083 is supposed to sit at 13k feet and seems to work? No clear indication that it doesn't anyway. Not sure who uses it so hard to say how capable it is or isn't.

Re: Are Boeing AEW&C customers looking for alternatives?

Unread postPosted: 23 Jul 2020, 20:44
by marauder2048
element1loop wrote:
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.


I don't see how aerostats hold station in a +100 knot jetstream flow for days without consuming a whole lot of fuel and requiring a much heavier structure against moderate to severe turbulence. Altitude matters, so flying at lower level is out, and you'd just need 4 times as many aerostats. And now you're flying in even more convective and disrupted air. I don't think aerostats can ever be that solution, nor can they withdraw at 480 knots to survive.

BTW, some of the highest speed and most persistent jetstream flows on earth pass directly over South Korea.


None of the tethered aerostats are designed to operate in 100 knot winds but they are designed to survive in them.
The TARS array in the US with an L-band radar designed for cruise missile defense has a CPFH* of $950.
That's with an onboard 100 gallon diesel generator at 1 gallon/hour consumption for the radar.

Things like JLENS which are tethered powered are better by virtue of larger, more efficient ground-based generators.
The typical appeal of aerostats is that you can re-use variants of existing ground-based radars since they are
only contending with stationary clutter.

A JLENS orbit (Surveillance + FCR) was to be in the $250 million range with a CPFH of $10,000 which was dominated
completely by military personnel costs so YMMV. Typical AWACS CPFH is ~$40,000.

With JLENS you get a dual-band system with FCQ quality tracks so it's really not comparable to, AFAIK, any
AWACS out there.

* Yes..it's a bad metric but it's easier that posting the detail O&S breakdowns.