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AWACS Upgrade Advances: Boeing announced late last week that it has moved into the production phase of the Air Force’s E-3 airborne warning and control system aircraft block 40/45 upgrade program with the award of the first low-rate initial production contract. Under the terms of the $44 million contract, Boeing will provide the new hardware for the first E-3 aircraft that will be upgraded, along with spare parts, and other services. Air Force personnel will install the hardware at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Okla. This installation is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2011, according to the company. Overall, the Air Force has 33 AWACS aircraft, including one test asset. Boeing said the remaining five LRIP aircraft will be covered in a follow-on contract. The block 40/45 upgrade is thelargest in the history of the AWACS program. It enhances the aircraft’s capacity for network-enabled operations and increases its effectiveness and reliability, all with lower projected lifecycle costs.