The United Kingdom today confirmed that it was in discussion with Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force about the potential for the E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft to replace its current Sentry fleet.
Minister for Defence, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP and Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Steve Ciobo MP welcomed the announcement and said it would further deepen Australia’s relationship with the United Kingdom and was an endorsement of a crucial part of Australia’s air combat capability.
“The Wedgetail is a great Australian success story, designed for the Royal Australian Air Force with investment by the Australian Government and significant contribution by Australian industry, it is a highly advanced world-best aircraft,” Minister Pyne said.
“Widely recognised as the most advanced aircraft of its type in the Western world, the Wedgetail provides state-of-the-art airborne surveillance, communications and battle management systems.”
“Australia has had Wedgetail aircraft deployed in the Middle East since October 2014 in support of operations against ISIL, with the aircraft achieving a 98 per cent mission success rate.”
Australia’s experience in operating the Wedgetail presents a significant opportunity to work closely with the United Kingdom through cooperative development and industry collaboration.
“Australian industry, including the more than 200 Australian companies that have contributed to our own Wedgetail acquisition and sustainment, stands to benefit from what could become one of Australia’s most significant defence exports,” Minister Ciobo said.
“A UK procurement will add to the global fleet of Wedgetails, already including Australia, Turkey and South Korea, which can be supported and sustained by Australian industry and create hundreds of Australian jobs.”
“This is yet another great example of the confidence in Australia’s defence industry being shown by Australia’s international allies and of the importance of having a stable and funded Integrated Investment Program”
Today’s announcement follows the third Australia-United Kingdom Defence Industry Dialogue (AUKDID), held in London in July.
“AUKDID was an important opportunity to discuss deeper defence industry collaboration between Australia and the United Kingdom and ways we can collectively strengthen our defence capability,” Minister Pyne said.
“During the Dialogue I took the opportunity to further promote Australia’s world-class Wedgetail capability to the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Defence and the then Minister for Defence Procurement.”
“Deeper engagement between both countries’ defence industries, including through increased exports and industry partnerships, will further strengthen our bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom.”
Released earlier this year, Australia’s Defence Export Strategy identifies the United Kingdom as one of Australia’s highest defence export market priorities.