years since Sentry's entry
RAF CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF SERVICE WITH CFM56-2-POWERED E-3D AWACS FLEET
Gary Parsons reports from a chilly Waddington
On 26 March, ten years to the day since the E-3D Sentry AWACS aircraft entered service at RAF Waddington, a small ceremony was held with CFM International in the main servicing hangar to commemorate ten years of safe operations of the engines.
The E-3D, or Sentry AEW1 as it is known in the RAF, provides the UK with an invaluable airborne command and control capability, representing the greatest force multiplier to enter RAF service since the introduction of air-to-air refuelling in the 1960s. The aircraft, derived from the Boeing 707 airliner and equipped with a Northrop Grumman radar, owes much of its outstanding performance and reliability to its four CFM-56-2A turbofan engines, each developing 24,000 lbs of thrust at take-off power. The jets allow the British AWACS to burn around 25% less fuel than its older counterparts in service with NATO and the United States Air Force, and to fly longer missions at higher altitudes, a crucial advantage in today's air combat environment.
Also well known for dependability in the world of commercial air transport, the CFM-56 engines have maintained exceptional reliability over their first ten years in operation with the RAF. Indeed, in over 2,500 missions and 20,000 flying hours over Bosnia, Kosovo and now Macedonia, only two sorties have been lost due to engine problems. At the same time, the E-3D has earned praise with local village residents for its relative quietness and low emissions. The aircraft all proudly wear the shield of the City of Lincoln, as Waddington is the main operating base for the seven aeroplanes devoted to the Airborne Early Warning role.
The CFM-56 is produced by CFM International - a 50/50 joint company between Snecma Moteurs of France and General Electric of the USA. In addition to the RAF AWACS, the CFM-56-2 also powers other military applications, including more than 400 re-engined KC-135R tanker aircraft for the USAF and four French AWACS, among others.
Making the presentation on behalf of CFM International was its President and Chief Executive Officer, Gerard Laviec, who presented a small commemorative plaque to the Station Commander, Dai Whittingham, who in return presented the station crest to Messr Laviec. It is hoped that one of the RAF E3s will be painted in a special cut-away scheme to celebrate the ten years before the start of the airshow season.