NATO is conducting a competition for three risk reduction and feasibility studies under its Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC) program to replace 14 Boeing [BA] E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft when they leave service in 2035.

In March last year, six companies or industry teams delivered AFSC concept studies to the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA)–Airbus Defence and Space; Boeing and Indra Sistemas, Inmarsat, Leonardo, and Thales; General Atomics; L3Harris [LHX] and Meta Mission Data, Deloitte Consulting, Hensoldt Sensors, IBM [IBM], Musketeer Solutions, Synergeticon and Videns; Lockheed Martin [LMT]; and an MDA Systems and General Dynamics [GD] team.

NSPA said this month that it has identified “three high-level conceptual approaches…for further analysis through three separate Risk Reduction and Feasibility Studies (RRFS).” Through a competition for those three studies, “industry will further develop the proposed AFSC concepts and demonstrate their technical and operational feasibility for 2035 and beyond,” NSPA said.

NATO said it is not wedded solely to an airborne approach for AFSC. AWACS “could be replaced with different combinations of systems in the air, land, space, or even in the cyber domain,” NSPA said.

L3Harris said on July 19 that it intends to develop NATO AFSC concepts with international companies “to be named at a later date.”

Dave Johnson, vice president of strategy at L3 Harris Integrated Mission Systems, said in a statement that “NATO has made it very clear that its objective is to ensure data and information are placed at the heart of all future AFSC capabilities.”

”With our data-centric, platform-agnostic architecture approach and experience building JADC2 capabilities, the L3Harris team is committed to working with NATO, studying all aspects of its flagship program and developing a concept for joint all-domain surveillance and control for the AFSC program,” he said.

Under a $1 billion contract with Boeing, NATO has also been upgrading the 14 AWACS, based at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany, with new data link and voice communications systems and enhanced Wide-Band Beyond Line-of-Sight airborne networking capability (Defense Daily, June 15). The $1 billion upgrade follows an earlier effort that gave the NATO AWACS planes glass cockpits and Mode 5 identification friend or foe situational awareness.

In April, U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, the head of U.S. European Command, told Congress that his top priority is augmenting NATO capabilities for secure indications and warning and command and control systems, as Russia aims to proliferate advanced electronic warfare and drone swarming.