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US Air Force bids farewell to first E-3 Sentry aircraft as it begins retirement of 13-plane fleet

The A-10C Thunderbolt II was retired by the US Air Force last week, and in its final flight, it was flown to Arizona for dismantling. Following the A-10C, the E-3 Sentry long-range radar detection aircraft was retired and flew to Davis-Monthan, Arizona in early April 2023. The flight number was 0560.

The US Air Force had expressed its desire to retire AWACS aircraft since April 2022. The reason behind retiring the E-3 Sentry aircraft is that it is based on a Boeing 707, which is no longer commercially used. Consequently, the maintenance of the E-3 places a heavy burden on the service budget, and the availability rate has fallen below 65% in recent years.

The U.S. Air Force has issued a press release stating that the retirement of the 13 E-3s will enable the service to concentrate on maintaining the remaining aircraft. To achieve this, the service must provide the US Congress with an acquisition strategy for the E-7 Wedgetail aircraft, which will replace the E-3 Sentry.

Only after this will the service be able to decommission ten aircraft, and three more planes will be retired after the E-7 contract is awarded.

In late February 2023, the US Air Force signed a contract with Boeing to acquire the first two Wedgetail aircraft, totaling more than $1 billion. The service aims to have a fleet of 26 E-7s, with deliveries beginning in 2027.

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