Photo: Current Boeing 737 AEW&C operators include the Royal Australian Air Force – this E-7A Wedgetail is accompanied by an RAAF F/A-18F as they transit to the battlespace as part of Operation Okra in the Middle East. CPL Brenton Kwaterski/Commonwealth of Australia
The UK Ministry of Defence today announced signature of a $1.98bn deal to purchase five E-7 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft to replace the RAF’s fleet of E-3D Sentry AEW1s. The aircraft will be similar to the E-7A Wedgetail operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
The deal was signed by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who said: “The E-7 provides a technological edge in an increasingly complex battlespace, allowing our ships and aircraft to track and target adversaries more effectively than ever. This deal also strengthens our vital military partnership with Australia.”
As well as the E-7, Williamson pointed to commonality between the RAF and RAAF F-35 fleets and the British-designed Type 26 warships ordered by Canberra. He added: “This announcement will help us work even more closely together to tackle the global threats we face.”
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 E3D Sentry Force.”
ACM Hillier continued: “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 NG airliner modified to carry a Northrop Grumman active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that can cover four million square kilometres over a ten-hour period.
Modification of the aircraft will be carried out in the UK at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group in Cambridge.
October 2019Cover star of the October issue of AFM is the Su-24 – a type that was of significant operational value to the Soviet Union during the latter years of the Cold War, but which is still relevant today. The Fencer bomber/recce fleets still hold their place in Russian service and the ageing type has performed fairly well in the Syrian campaign, as Alexander Mladenov discovers.
Echoes of the Cold War are apparent in Sweden too, where we profile the Swedish Air Force’s first expansion in almost two decades. Elsewhere in Europe, Swiss Air Force planners are busy thinking about a replacement for their trusted F/A-18C/D Hornets, as Peter M Gunti reports.
Other fighter types this month include the Spanish Air Force Typhoon, as the air arm masters its swing-role capabilities, embarks on an ambitious upgrade programme and even eyes further orders. There’s also a report from Transylvania, where Câmpia Turzii air base hosted a Theater Security Package of US Air Force Reserve Command F-16s.
On the industry side, Vladimir Trendafilovski reports from the shores of the Black Sea, where the state-owned Odessa Aircraft Plant continues a long tradition of aircraft and engine repair and overhaul. In Latin America, meanwhile, this year’s F-AIR Colombia show was dominated by celebrations for the centenary of the Colombian Air Force.
Trainers new and old are featured in the form of the Polish Air Force’s M-346 advanced jet. We also begin a two-part review of the RAF Tucano’s retirement, as Derek Bower charts the history of the aircraft that helped to train most of today’s RAF frontline fast-jet pilots. Air Power Association President, Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE, continues the theme as he focuses on the aircrew element at the heart of every first-class air force’s training system.