Australia’s Troubled E-7A “Wedgetail” AWACS Program
October 26/18: Critique Flight Global reports that the UK’s planned procurement of the E-7 Wedgetail system jointly produced by Boeing and Northrop Grumman is raising major concerns by rival producers of AEW&C aircraft. Defense secretary Gavin Williamson in early October confirmed that the UK is in early discussions with Boeing linked to a potential E-7 purchase, describing the 737-based system as “the stand-out performer in our pursuit of a new battlefield surveillance aircraft”. Saab is fiercely stepping up its efforts to halt the non-competitive acquisition. “We are concerned by the lack of competition and the lack of dialogue and response from MoD,” said Andre Walton, head of Saab UK, who notes that Saab’s “significant investment in the UK” is premised on an understanding that the nation is committed to “fair and transparent, free-market competition”. In a recent letter to Defense Committee chairman Julian Lewis, Walton offered the integration of Saab’s Erieye AESA and mission equipment onto the RAF’s A330 Voyager aircraft, which would reduce program costs by removing the need to acquire new aircraft. Flight Global states that factors behind the UK’s preference for the E-7 system stem from a reluctance to invest in a potentially risky development activity, with an acquisition to instead draw on Australia’s large investment in, and operational experience with the Wedgetail’s capability.
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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