Australia’s Troubled E-7A “Wedgetail” AWACS Program
October 4/18: UK purchase? Britain’s defense minister confirms that the government is looking into the purchase of a fleet of Wedgetail E-7 AWACS aircraft. In a recent interview, Gavin Williamson said that following an initial market analysis and a series of discussions, the Ministry of Defence can now conclude “that the potential procurement of the E-7 represents the best value for money option for the UK against need”. The UK is also currently in talks with Australia regarding a potential cooperation and collaboration on the Wedgetail program. Australia already operates a fleet of Wedgetails, and a small number of British Royal Air Force personnel have been training on the aircraft since mid-year. Williamson did not specify the timeframe, quantity and cost of the planned procurement, nevertheless it is likely that up to six E-7s will replace the ageing E-3Ds. The program will likely cost more than $2.6 billion, putting more pressure on an already exhausted British defense budget.
The island continent of Australia faces a number of unique security challenges that stem from its geography. The continent may be separated from its neighbors by large expanses of ocean, but it also resides within a potential arc of instability, and has a number of important offshore resource sites to protect. Full awareness of what is going on around them, and the ability to push that awareness well offshore, are critical security requirements.
“Project Wedgetail” had 3 finalists, and the winner was a new variant of Boeing’s 737-700, fitted with an MESA (multirole electronically scanned array) radar from Northrop Grumman. That radar exchanges the traditional AWACS rotating dome for the E-7A’s “top hat” stationary antenna. That design, and the project as a whole, have run into severe turbulence, creating problems for Boeing earnings, the ADF, and other export orders for the type. DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This one covers contracts, events, and key milestones within Australia’s E-7A program, from inception to the current day.
Project Wedgetail: Program and Participants
Program & Industrial Team
Contracts & Key Events
2011 – 2013
2009 – 2010
2007 – 2008
2005 – 2006
2003 – 2004
2001 – 2002
2000 and Earlier
News & Views
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