On August 12 the first of four Japanese Boeing E-767 airborne early warning aircraft arrived in Texas to undergo a systems upgrade. The work is covered by a Foreign Military Sales contract that was announced in February 2018.
Managed by the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, the upgrade provides an improved mission computer and other systems to the four E-767s and their associated ground equipment. Work is being conducted at the Kelly Field Annex, formerly the San Antonio Air Logistics Center, at Lackland AFB and is due to be completed by the end of 2022.
Marrying the airborne warning and control system (AWACS) of the Boeing E-3 Sentry with the Boeing 767-200 airframe, the E-767 is operated only by the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF). The first two E-767s were handed over in Seattle in March 1998, with the second pair delivered in 1999. They entered service in 2000 with 602 Hikotai at Hamamatsu, part of what is now the Air Surveillance Wing. During their JASDF career, the four aircraft have been updated to keep them broadly in step with the technological advances applied to the global E-3 Sentry fleet operated by the U.S. Air Force, France, United Kingdom, NATO, and Saudi Arabia. The upgrades included the major Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP).
Japan also operates four Boeing KC-767J tankers, which are being augmented by four KC-46A Pegasus aircraft, also based on the Boeing 767 airframe.
In addition to the E-767 upgrade, the Japanese airborne early warning capability is receiving a major boost through the addition of the Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. The E-2D is being procured to supplant the 13 E-2C Hawkeyes that have been in service with 601 Hikotai at Misawa since 1987. Four aircraft were taken from the squadron to form 603 Hikotai at Naha, Okinawa, in 2014.
Japan ordered a single E-2D in November 2015, subsequently adding three more aircraft. The first of them flew at Northrop Grumman’s St. Augustine, Florida, factory on October 9, 2017, and the first was handed over to the JASDF on March 29 this year. In September 2018 Japan submitted a Foreign Military Sales request for approval covering nine further aircraft that would complete the replacement of the current E-2Cs sometime in the late 2020s.