The E-7A Wedgetail upgrade consists of “new and more advanced combat identification sensors, tactical data links, and communication and encryption systems”.
The value of the contract is A$583 million, with the work to be completed by mid-2022.
The work will mainly be conducted at two Australian air bases: RAAF Amberley and RAAF Williamtown. Under AIR 5077 Phase 5A, Boeing Defence Australia will lead the upgrade in three stages over six years, with support from Boeing’s Airborne Surveillance Command and Control team in the US.
Darren Edwards, Boeing Defence Australia’s vice president and managing director said:
“We’re leveraging over 40 years of AEW&C knowledge and investment, and a successful track record of maintaining and upgrading aircraft built based on Boeing’s successful 737 model for the RAAF.
We are on track to deliver the first release of upgrades to all six aircraft in early 2018, with the first aircraft completing flight testing two months ahead of the schedule; a demonstration of the strength and success of the partnership between Boeing and the Commonwealth of Australia on this mission-critical platform.”
The government today announced we will upgrade the RAAF’s E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control capability. pic.twitter.com/LRyKpA3QZl
— Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) July 5, 2017
In October 2014, an E-7A Wedgetail conducted the first Australian sortie over Iraq supporting coalition forces conducting airstrikes against Islamic State. In January 2015, the Australian E-7A performed the longest Australian command and control mission in a war zone during a 16-hour, 18-minute combat mission over Iraq, requiring two air-to-air refuellings to stay aloft.
In May 2015, Australia’s fleet of six E-7A Wedgetail aircraft achieved final operational capability. This occurred after the aircraft supported search operations for MH370 and took part in Operation Okra, flying 1,200 hours during more than 100 sorties in the fight against Islamic State.