Australia’s Troubled E-7A “Wedgetail” AWACS Program
March 26/19: Confirmation The UK will acquire five Boeing 737-based E-7 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system aircraft. As reported by Flight Global, the UK Ministry of Defense confirmed the $1.98 billion contract that will lead to the replacement of the Royal Air Force’s current Boeing 707-based E-3D Sentry fleet, on March 22. Designed for the Royal Australian Air Force under “Project Wedgetail” and designated E-7A Wedgetail, the E-7 is based on a standard Boeing 737 NG airliner modified to carry a sophisticated Northrop Grumman active electronically-scanned radar. The L-band electronically scanned AEW and surveillance radar is located on a dorsal fin on top of the fuselage, dubbed the “top hat”, and is designed for minimal aerodynamic effect. Last year the UK wanted to proceed with a non-competitive selection of the E-7 with the Ministry of Defense having been keen to acquire an operationally-proven system to replace its current assets.
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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