Australia’s Troubled E-7A “Wedgetail” AWACS Program
ANAO report highlights project state – still not 100% ready; A$ 900+ million support contract to Boeing.
March 17/14: Support. A 5-year, A$ 901 million support contract extension (q.v. July 29/13) to Boeing Defence Australia will help No.2 Sqn in Williamtown with program management, supply-chain management, engineering, and maintenance services until at least 2019. Deeper E-7A aircraft maintenance support and training services will also continue under this deal, but only to 2016. Australia’s DoD intends to open them up to competition after that, and Boeing will have to win again to keep that work.
The extension features 48% Australian content: A$ 433 million is being spent in Australia, including A$ 275 million in Newcastle, A$ 80 million Brisbane and Ipswich and $78 million in Adelaide.
The contract’s scope covers all 6 E-7A Wedgetail aircraft, a full flight simulator, an operational mission simulator, a software development and test laboratory, and maintenance facilities. The contract could be extended via annual extensions based on performance metrics, and Boeing’s key contract partners remain BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman. Sources: DoD, “Minister applauds $901 million Wedgetail sustainment contract” | Boeing Australia, “Boeing Signs Contract to Continue Support for Australia’s Wedgetail Program”.
Dec 17/13: ANAO Report. Australia’s National Audit Office releases their 2012-13 Major Projects Report. AIR 5077 Phase 3 Wedgetail is one of the projects whose completion has slipped the most in the last year, adding a 20 month delay to make Final Operational Capability 78 months (6.5 years) late, in June 2015. That helped contribute to an A$ 91.4 million underspend in the past year. The program has spent A$ 3,452.5 million of A$ 3,843.7 budgeted, but it also has been adversely affected by inflation (A$ 1,111.1 million) and exchange variation (A$ 108.8 million) over that period. While Wedgetail was removed from the Projects of Concern list at Materiel Release 3 / Initial Operational Capability in November 2012:
“The performance shortfalls and technical difficulties are adversely affecting the transition into operational service and sustainment…. due to problems with sub?system integration, hardware availability, radar and electronic support measures maturity and aircraft modification.”
Final acceptance of the Mission Support Segment, Operational Mission Simulator, and Airborne Early Warning and Control Support Facility took place in December 2012, but Final Materiel Release has been delayed until December 2014, when Boeing is scheduled to finish remediation work.
Ongoing work with Boeing and Northrop Grumman has helped change minds at Australia’s DMO, and they now believe that they will fix almost all of the performance shortfalls through the settlement with Boeing. Radar performance in the clear has been “substantially remediated,” performance in clutter expected to see “substantial improvement” by December 2013, and a number of shortfalls in Electronic Support Measures (ESM), Electronic Warfare Self Protection (EWSP), communications datalinks/ data forwarding, and residual integrated system performance are getting better. Work also continues on system stability.
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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