in Defence / Security

Boeing's E-7 ‘Wedgetail’ to provide UK's AEW&C capability

Posted 22 March 2019 · Add Comment

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has signed a $1.98 billion (£1.51 billion) deal to purchase five E-7 Wedgetail aircraft, to replace the UK's current E-3D Sentry aircraft and provide the Royal Air Force (RAF) with the means to ensure continued delivery of the UK’s Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) capability.



Above: Two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft in flight, providing Australia and its allies around the world with airborne surveillance and battle management support.
Courtesy Boeing


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has selected Boeing to provide five E-7 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft to the Royal Air Force.

The contract is expected to sustain several hundred highly skilled aerospace jobs throughout Boeing’s UK supply chain.

Much of the work will be done at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group in Cambridge.

The E-7 modernises the UK’s airborne battle management fleet, meeting the UK’s urgent operational need to detect aircraft, ships and vehicles at long range and to command and control airspace. Its advanced radar and 10 state-of-the-art mission crew consoles can track airborne and maritime targets simultaneously. The battle management capabilities allow mission crew to direct offensive and defensive forces while maintaining continuous surveillance of an operational area.

“The E-7 is the world’s most advanced, capable and reliable command-and-control aircraft, and it is demonstrating its value around the world every day,” said Anna Keeling, managing director of Boeing Defence UK. “It will provide the RAF with a combat-proven capability that is both low risk and unmatched.”

Boeing’s command-and-control aircraft expertise began in 1977, when it first modified a 707 aircraft for the United States. With the E-7, the RAF will join an AEW&C fleet in operation around the world with the Royal Australian Air Force, Turkish Air Force and Republic of Korea Air Force.

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

“We will operate the same 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.”

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 Wedgetail 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.

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.  Doing this now will enable the Sentry Force to focus resources on providing better availability from the remaining four aircraft, to better assure the future Sentry Fleet output, including our commitments to the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force and the provision of NATO Assurance Measures missions.

Speaking following the announcement, 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 E-3D 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 E-7 is based on a standard Boeing 737 airliner modified to carry a sophisticated Northrop Grumman active electronically-scanned radar. This can cover four million square kilometres over a 10-hour period.

 

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