Air Force to upgrade E-3 AWACS communications capabilities

By Sara Sirota / January 28, 2020 at 11:14 AM

The Air Force is looking to build a long-term partnership with an industry provider as it seeks to upgrade the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System to transmit and receive fifth-generation fighter platform sensor data.

AWACS can already exchange Link 16 messages at the "collateral secret level," but now the Air Force wants the Boeing-built surveillance aircraft to receive and display Link 16 data at the "U.S.-only secret level from separately encrypted network participation groups," according to a request for information released Monday.

The upgrade is intended to "improve situational awareness and shorten the kill chain for warfighters," the notice states.

The Air Force emphasizes that received messages at two different security levels cannot be merged with one another.

"At a minimum, AWACS must be able to display the U.S.-only secret data in a separate processing enclave," the RFI states. "It is desired for AWACS to be able to transfer collateral secret data from the current mission computing system and overlay (threshold) or fuse (objective) the data with the U.S.-only secret data in a separate processing enclave."

"It is also desired to cross domain transfer the U.S.-only secret data to the [mission computing system] as permitted by the data security policies," the notice adds.

Responses are due by Feb. 26.