Boeing Completes First Stage of Upgrades for RAAF’s E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C Fleet

The first phase of upgrades to Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft fleet has been completed, Boeing announced.

The upgrades paved the way for a suite of world-first modifications to enhance the aircraft’s capability as a key military asset for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and allied partners.

Under the Wedgetail AIR 5077 Phase 5A program, Boeing Defence Australia is leading a global Boeing team to deliver structural and software upgrades to Australia’s AEW&C fleet.

The on-time completion of the first stage of Phase 5A equipped the fleet of six aircraft with satellite position broadcast technology and the latest version of a traffic collision avoidance system. These upgrades will keep the aircraft compliant with mandated changes in the civilian environment.

The Wedgetail upgrade program is a key element of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) strategy of becoming an integrated fifth-generation force, said Trevor Smith, Phase 5A project manager for the ADF.

“The changes being made to Australia’s Wedgetail fleet will allow us to share large amounts of strategic and tactical data more easily in a battle space environment,” Smith said. “Being able to quickly exchange information, such as the location of threats, with our allies and across different platforms means we can combine potent capabilities more effectively during joint operations…. The Wedgetail is the centerpiece of our national air defense capability, and it continues to be a critical asset in protecting our warfighters in missions and exercises overseas.”

BDA’s general manager of Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance Scott Carpendale praised the efforts of the global team in delivering the first round of upgrades on schedule.

“The Wedgetail program demonstrates the strength we bring to our international customers when we operate as one Boeing,” said Carpendale. “Our Australian team worked closely with Airborne Surveillance Command & Control organisation in Oklahoma City to deliver the updates and that relationship allowed us to draw on the expertise of our people across the globe…. Phase 5A is delivering world-class support and global AEW&C capability for our Australian customer and they are extremely happy with the result”, he added.

Boeing delivered the first two E-7A Wedgetail aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 26 November 2009. The RAAF accepted its sixth and last aircraft on 5 June 2012.

All Australian E-7A aircraft are operated by No. 2 Squadron RAAF and based at RAAF Base Williamtown with a permanent detachment at RAAF Base Tindal. The Wedgetail aircraft achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) on November 2012 and final operational capability (FOC)on 26 May 2015.

Boeing 737 AEW&C

Boeing 737 AEW&C is a twin-engine airborne early warning and control aircraft designed for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) under “Project Wedgetail” and designated E-7A Wedgetail.

The 737 AEW&C is based on the Boeing 737 Next Generation (737NG) design, roughly similar to the 737-700ER. It is lighter than the 707-based Boeing E-3 Sentry, and mounts a fixed, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar antenna instead of a rotating one.

The aircraft uses the Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar. The L-band (1 to 2 GHz) 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.

The radar is capable of simultaneous air and sea search, fighter control and area search, with a maximum range of over 600 km (look-up mode). When operating in look-down mode against fighter-sized target, the maximum range is in excess of 370 km. When used against maritime targets, the maximum range is over 240 km for frigate-sized targets. MESA is capable of simultaneously tracking 180 targets and conducting 24 intercepts. In addition, the radar antenna array is also doubled as an ELINT array, with a maximum range of over 850 km at 9,000 meter altitude.

The 737 AEW&C has also been selected by the Turkish Air Force (under “Project Peace Eagle”, Turkish: Barış Kartalı) and the Republic of Korea Air Force (“Project Peace Eye”, Korean: “피스 아이”), and has been proposed to Italy and the United Arab Emirates.

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