Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today announced that the Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) Wedgetail aircraft has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC).
Mr Clare said this achievement is the result of a lot of hard work by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Defence Materiel Organisation, Boeing and their subcontractors working together.
“I particularly want to thank the team at Boeing for their commitment to this project. This is a very complex piece of military hardware. The project faced a lot of challenges. We have met these challenges by working together,” Mr Clare said.
“Australia now has one of the most advanced air battlespace management capabilities in the world.”
The Wedgetail is named after the Wedge-tailed Eagle, Australia’s largest bird of prey. The Wedge-tailed Eagle can fly high for hours on end and has exceptional eyesight which can extend to the infrared and ultraviolet spectrum.
The Wedgetail aircraft can fly 10,000 metres above the earth’s surface and maintain surveillance over a surface area of 400,000 square kilometres at any given time. Over a 10-hour mission the Wedgetail can cover over 4 million square kilometres.
“The Wedgetail is the big brain in the battlespace. It knows more about what’s going on in a war zone than anything else,” Mr Clare said.
Since 2011 Wedgetail has participated in Exercise Bersama Lima in Malaysia, Exercise Cope North Guam, Exercise Bersama Shield, Exercise Red Flag, Alaska and most recently Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC).
The project was approved in 2000 with a budget of $3.45 billion to procure six 737-700 commercial aircraft which were then fitted with an advanced multi-role electronically scanned radar and ten mission crew consoles.
IOC is the minimum standard required by Defence to operate the fleet and takes into account not only the aircraft itself, but also logistics, sustainment, as well as training of aircrews, ground crews and technical support staff.
The formal removal of the project from the POC list will occur shortly.