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.
April 2020The April edition of AFM has a special focus on the UK Royal Navy’s aviation component, with extensive coverage including a Force Report on the Fleet Air Arm as it enters its second century of service, an Exercise Report on the final training course on the Merlin HC3, and a look to the future as the UK begins to explore options for integrating unmanned air systems with its Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.
There’s more naval aviation from France, with stunning Rafale coverage from the French Navy’s oldest fighter squadron, Flottille 11F, which turned 100 last year. Portugal’s P-3C CUP+ Orion fleet may be operated by the air force, but these maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare specialists are also featured. On the operational side, there’s a report from Sigonella air base in Sicily, home to the Italian Air Force’s P-72As and host to additional European maritime patrol aircraft. This month’s naval coverage is completed with a look at the new capabilities that will sharpen the E-2 Hawkeye – the US Navy’s ‘eye of the fleet’.
Back on dry land, we interview Dutch F-35A pilot Lt Col Ian ‘Gladys’ Knight about Dutch F-35 numbers and dogfighting in the stealth warplane, before visiting the Italian Air Force’s important Typhoon base at Trapani-Birgi, which occupies a remote strategic position covering Europe’s southern flank.
Aleksandar Radić examines how military donations from Moscow to Serbia have proved an important tool of soft power in the Balkans, but how the latest developments look set to bring Belgrade closer to the West, while regular contributor Dietmar Fenners was in Thailand recently, where Don Muang air base in Bangkok opened its doors to the public and hosted an extensive flypast.