The Chairman of the Defence Committee has written to the Minister of Defence Procurement to request that any requirement for replacing the Sentry aircraft be put out to a competitive tender, rather than bought ‘off the shelf’ with no competition taking place.

AWACS aircraft perform an important function on operations, providing long-range early warning and surveillance capability alongside airborne battle management and communications relay functions. The Royal Air Force possesses six Boeing E-3D Sentry AWACS aircraft. They are currently due to stay in service until 2035, subject to a capability sustainment programme to extend their service life. Reports have emerged however that as part of the Modernising Defence Programme, the Ministry of Defence is considering cancelling the sustainment programme and replacing the Sentry fleet with a new aircraft.

In its letter the Committee criticises the Sentry fleet’s poor state of maintenance. The readiness and number of flying hours completed by aircraft have been reducing, and the Committee has heard anecdotal evidence that only one of the six E-3D aircraft is available for service at any one time.

On the possibility of Sentry being replaced with a new system, the letter notes the advantages of a competitive tender in terms of maximising value for money and allowing proper consideration of a range of alternatives. The Committee also considers that a competition is particularly appropriate in this case, as there are viable alternatives available which deserve to be given fair consideration.

Defence Committee Chairman Dr Julian Lewis MP said:

“AWACS is an important capability for the UK to maintain, particularly given the possibility of future conflict taking place in a heavily contested airspace against peer adversaries. The fact that the capacity of the RAF’s current AWACS fleet has been run down to such a low level is greatly to be regretted.

The Ministry of Defence, if it seeks to replace Sentry with an entirely new system, has the opportunity to regenerate this capability and to give proper consideration to the range of available alternatives through a competitive tender. The benefits of doing so are clear, and this is exactly the kind of engagement that the Department should be seeking with industry in its drive to modernise Defence.”

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Favour the a330neo air framed offering if its possible. Commonality with the MRTT fleet with wings and Rolls engines give good UK content. Marshalls involved with the conversion work.

BAe can do the communications, counter measures and defensive aids. Cranfield can do the design and prototyping. Cobham refuelling, but can offer more capabilities. Loads of UK capability. UK own the design and wait for the export order to flood in.

I can only dream.


Worst. Idea. Ever.

Buy Wedgetail. Combat-proven, in service already with a close ally who love it, and some parts commonality with P-8.

Don’t waste time and money putting it out to tender when the best solution is obvious.


I think if we are going to replace the E3D it should be the wedgetail

Mike Saul

Wedgetail is the only option with regard to risk, cost and capability.

Anything else is pure fantasy


Let us hope this does not turn into another Nimrod in terms of vacillation on, which system to deploy. Maybe we could buy smaller planes and have more of them?

Tim UK

Capability now ? Nah let’s let the MoD / BAE and the rest create Nimrod 3.

A pack of clowns.

David Steeper

I’m not suggesting there may be something illegal happening but I hope the police and serious fraud office are keeping an eye on all these ‘off the shelf’ deals. If it was happening almost anywhere else I’d feel very cynical about them. I hope they keep an eye on where the people (in and out of uniform) taking these decisions end up employed by when they leave.


competitive tender will not maximise value for money…it will raise costs and move replacement dates out by a number of years with the result we will have to extend the life of AWACS aswell, incurring more costs.