The UK’s plans to acquire the Boeing E-7 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft came a step closer to reality in mid-July, with the arrival of the first three Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel at Williamtown for training on the RAAF’s Wedgetail aircraft.
The RAF is seeking to acquire a replacement for its ageing Boeing E-3D Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) fleet and is reportedly considering buying an unspecified number of E-7s via a single source selection process.
ADM understands that the three RAF crewmembers, comprising a pilot, an Electronic Support Measures Operator (ESMO), and a Surveillance and Control Officer began their Wedgetail conversion course with 2 Sqn at Williamtown about three weeks ago.
Furthermore, it is understood that there are at least two USAF personnel also undergoing Wedgetail conversion at Williamtown.
“Number 2 Squadron has just taken on-board some trainees, both from the UK and the US – both pilots and back end mission crew,” 2 Sqn Senior Engineer Officer (SENGO) Squadron Leader Shane Taylor said at RAAF Base Tindal last week. “They will be progressing through the training continuum over the coming twelve to eighteen months and certainly other countries are expressing an interest in this capability."
The news follows the recent demonstration of the Wedgetail’s capability at RAF Waddington, home of the RAF’s Sentry fleet. One aircraft attended the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in July and deployed to Waddington after the show to demonstrate its capabilities to the UK’s AWACS force.
The latest move is also a further blow to Saab, which has proposed its GlobalEye AEW&C solution for the UK requirement. Based on a Bombardier 6000 airframe, the GlobalEye has been purchased by the United Arab Emirates Air Force, the first of which is currently undergoing flight tests in Sweden.
The RAAF maintains an ongoing Wedgetail deployment in the Middle East in support of Operation Okra and the aircraft has reportedly earned a reputation for being the coalition’s ‘AEW&C of choice’ thanks to both its performance and mission success rate.
One aircraft is currently deployed to Tindal, where it is providing AEW&C coverage to ‘Blue Air’ forces on Exercise Pitch Black. During the exercise, it is sharing surveillance and control duties with a Gulfstream G550AEW platform from the Republic of Singapore Air Force and RAAF ground control units.
“By some margin, the Wedgetail is a world-leading Airborne Early Warning and Control platform (and) it is absolutely demonstrating that it provides exceptional value for money,” SQNLDR Taylor said.
“It’s about providing the best situational awareness that you can in a high-end, 5th generation warfight.”