USAF retires first active-duty E-3B Sentry from service

Tinker Air Force Base (AFB) in Oklahoma bid farewell to its first Boeing E-3B Sentry on March 31 as the airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft was flown to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, where it will be placed into long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG).

The aircraft (serial 75-0560) is the first active-duty E-3 Sentry to be sent to the famous ‘Boneyard’ and was previously operated by the 552nd Air Control Wing (ACW). This retirement comes as part of the FY23 Presidents Budget Request, in which the Department of the Air Force announced it would divest 13 AWACS and redirect funds to procure and field the E-3's replacement, the Boeing E-7A.

Signed messaged from the squadron members before departure
Signed messaged from the squadron members before departure USAF

 With this retirement, the 522nd can focus on preserving the useful life of its remaining airframes, and this will become a growing focus as more aircraft depart. As the Sentry fleet is withdrawn from use, the sustainability of the remaining airframes will improve as high-demand, low-availability parts become more readily available. “While some may see the divestment as the end of an era, the retirement of this aircraft marks the beginning of modernization for the 552nd,” said Col Keven Coyle, commander of the 552nd ACW. “Despite a fleet reduction, the mission will remain the same, providing worldwide management as well as command and control operations as required.” On April 26, 2022, the Air Force revealed its plan to replace part of the E-3B/C/G Sentry fleet with the E-7A, which was deemed to be the only readily available aircraft that could meet the USAF's requirements. "After extensive market research and analysis, it was determined the E-7 is the most compatible to meet our requirements," Coyle said. "The aircraft will not only provide modernization but also establish a trilateral information and manning exchange program with the Royal Australian Air Force and the UK's Royal Air Force, who already operate on the E-7."

75-0560 on the ground at Tinkler AFB
75-0560 on the ground at Tinkler AFB USAF