Multi-Billion-Pound Deal for Early Warning Radar Aircraft
(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued March 22, 2019)
The British government has ordered five Boeing E-7 aircraft worth $1.98 billion to replace its fleet of six E-3D AWACS aircraft, two of which are “long-term unserviceable.” An E-7A operated by the RAAF is seen here refueling from an Airbus A330 tanker. (RAAF photo)
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has signed a $1.98Bn deal to purchase five E-7 early warning radar aircraft.

The E-7 fleet will replace the current Sentry aircraft and ensure the continued delivery of the UK’s Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) capability.

Named “Wedgetail” by the Australian Department for Defence, the E-7 aircraft can fly for long periods of time and manage the battlespace from the sky.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The E-7 provides a technological edge in an increasingly complex battlespace, allowing our ships and aircraft to track and target adversaries more effectively than ever. This deal also strengthens our vital military partnership with Australia.

“We will operate state-of-the-art F-35 jets and world-class Type-26 warships, and this announcement will help us work even more closely together to tackle the global threats we face.”

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said: “Today’s announcement about the procurement of five E-7 ‘Wedgetail’ Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft is excellent news for both the RAF and wider Defence. This world-class capability, already proven with our Royal Australian Air Force partners, will significantly enhance our ability to deliver decisive airborne command and control and builds on the reputation of our E3D Sentry Force.

“Along with Defence’s investment in other cutting-edge aircraft, E-7 will form a core element of the Next Generation Air Force, able to overcome both current and future complex threats.”


The new fleet will be able to track multiple airborne and maritime targets at the same time, using the information it gathers to provide situational awareness and direct other assets such as fighter jets and warships.

The E-7 is a proven aircraft that is currently in-service with the Royal Australian Air Force and has been used on operations in the battle against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

The E-7 is based on a standard Boeing 737 NG airliner modified to carry a sophisticated Northrop Grumman active electronically-scanned radar. This can cover four million square kilometres over a 10-hour period.

Click on the image to enlarge

Modification of the aircraft will be carried out in the UK, sustaining over 200 highly skilled jobs at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group in Cambridge, and there will also be opportunities for British suppliers to be involved in future training and support arrangements.

This announcement builds on a growing military capability and industrial relationship between the UK and Australia, after the Australian government selected the British Type 26 design for its future frigate.


(EDITOR’S NOTE: In a similar press release, the Royal Air Force reveals that “As part of the plan for a managed transition to E-7, it has been decided to reduce the existing E-3D fleet from six to four aircraft by removing the two long-term unserviceable assets from the active fleet.”
This reveals that two of the RAF’s six E-3Ds have been unserviceable, which was not previously public knowledge.
It also adds another aircraft to the RAF inventory that cannot be refueled by its Voyager aerial tankers, as like the C-17 Globemaster, P-8A Poseidon, RC-135 Airseeker and E-3D AWACS, because they lack refueling booms.
Calling on allied tankers is always possible, but the RAF should add booms to its Voyagers so they can refuel aircraft only fitted with USAF-style receptacles on their top fuselages.
It is not known why the RAF’s Voyager tankers weren’t ordered with booms in the first place, as are those of all other operators.
Note that, according to the infographic above, one of the roles of the new aircraft is “to facilitate 4th and 5th gen interoperability,” which actually means allowing the F-35 to communicate with other RAF aircraft.)


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U.K. Pulls Trigger on Wedgetail AEW Purchase
(Source: Forecast International; issued March 22, 2019)
By Daniel Darling
The British Ministry of Defence announced on March 22 a nearly $2 billion procurement of a fleet of five Wedgetail E-7 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft from Boeing. With British aircrews already training on the Wedgetail in Australia and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirming on October 2, 2018, that discussions with the U.S. manufacturer were underway, the procurement was seen as a foregone conclusion.

That the British opted for a single-source avenue rather than float a competitive tender, however, drew complaints from both the Parliamentary Defence Committee and rival manufacturers including Airbus and Saab.

But with the Royal Air Force’s fleet of E-3D Sentry AEW aircraft suffering from groundings, low serviceability rates, and high maintenance costs, the need to replace and improve an eroding situational awareness/command-and-control capability appears to have prompted officials to pursue a faster course.

The E-3D Sentrys were earlier planned to remain operational through 2035 as per Britain’s 2015 Strategic Defense and Security Review. However, a proposed GBP2 billion upgrade (the airframes of these aircraft are based on the 1950s design for the Boeing 707) was instead reduced to a concept study in order to achieve savings and generate RAF near-term efficiencies.

The Defence Ministry undertook its own market analysis of the AEW&C options in 2018 and concluded that the E-7 represented the best value for money option. The aircraft purchase also brings added value in terms of localized work share with Cambridge-based aerospace company Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, set to convert the Boeing 737 NG airframes to the E-7 AEW standard.

Boeing’s E-7 is based on a standard 737-700 airframe outfitted with an advanced electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and 10 mission crew consoles capable of tracking airborne and maritime targets simultaneously with 360-degree coverage. The British E-7s will be based on the Australian-configured model of the aircraft.

The purchase thus allows for greater interoperability with close ally Australia, which, like the U.K., will be operating fleets of P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft across the coming decades.

While no timetable was provided by the MoD, reports indicate that delivery of the first aircraft should occur in 2023

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UK Wedgetail Acquisition to Create Australian Jobs
(Source: Australian Minister for Defence; issued March 23, 2019)
The United Kingdom today announced that it has signed a contract with Boeing to acquire five E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.

Minister for Defence, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, and Minister for Defence Industry, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds welcomed the announcement and said the acquisition represented an acknowledgement of the world-leading nature of the Wedgetail aircraft.

“The Wedgetail is a true Australian success story – designed for the Royal Australian Air Force with investment by the Australian Government and the support of over 200 Australian companies,” Minister Pyne said.

“It is now a world best platform providing cutting edge airborne surveillance, communications and battle management systems.”

“Like the Australian acquisition of the Hunter Class Frigate, the UK acquisition of Wedgetail aircraft will enhance the ability of our two nations to operate seamlessly together.”

The UK acquisition is also expected to be a significant win for Australian defence industry.

“The UK acquisition is expected to deliver 100 jobs to the Brisbane and Newcastle based staff of Boeing Defence Australia, taking advantage of their world-leading capabilities in systems and software engineering and deep experience in Wedgetail support, including ground-based aircrew training,” Minister Reyonlds said.

“Further opportunities – including for the more than 200 Australian companies that have contributed to our own Wedgetail acquisition and sustainment – will be available for Australian industry in the supply chain.”

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