EXCLUSIVE – A source close to the now-retired E-3D Sentry fleet has told the UK Defence Journal that Chile is looking to purchase “more than one” retired E-3D aircraft from Britain.

One of the aircraft has already been sold to the United States, to be used as a dedicated trainer supporting its E-6B Mercury airborne communications and command post fleet.

The UK originally operated seven of the aircraft type. In December 2020, only three remained in service after one was withdrawn from service in 2009 to be used as spares, two were withdrawn in March 2019 and a further one withdrawn in January 2020.

It was unknown how many Chile intend to purchase but I have been told that it will be “more than one”, however today (19th of January) it was confirmed that three have been sold.

I have contacted the Ministry of Defence for comment on this news and I will update this article when I receive a response.

The ‘E-3D’ variant features CFM56 engines and some British modifications and was designated Sentry AEW.1 in RAF service. Modifications included the addition of a refuelling probe next to the existing boom AAR receptacle, wingtip ESM pods, an enhanced Maritime Surveillance Capability offering ‘Maritime Scan-Scan Processing’ plus JTIDS and Havequick 2 radios.

An E-7 Wedgetail.

The RAF’s E-3 Sentry airborne early warning aircraft fleet was retired in September with their replacement, the E-7 Wedgetail, not due until 2023. The UK will rely on the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force to plug the gap.

The first two of three E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft for the Royal Air Force are starting to take shape. Air Marshal Andrew Turner of the Royal Air Force tweeted the following:

STS Aviation is converting three Boeing 737 airliners into E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft at its facility at Birmingham Airport.

An E-7 Wedgetail of the Royal Australian Air Force. Photo by Bidgee [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons.

Wedgetail is an airborne early warning and control system, commonly known as AWACs or AEW&C. They are designed to track multiple targets at sea or in the air over a considerable area for long periods of time. This aircraft is replacing the E-3D Sentry, pictured below.

FILE PHOTO: E-3D Sentry

The plan, previously, was five aircraft but the recent ‘Defence Command Paper’ reduced the order from five to three. The Defence Command Paper released, titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’, stated:

“We will retire the E 3D Sentry in 2021, as part of the transition to the more modern and more capable fleet of three E 7A Wedgetail in 2023. The E 7A will transform our UK Airborne Early Warning and Control capability and the UK’s contribution to NATO. The nine P 8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will help to secure our seas.”

The first of the E-7 Wedgetails purchased by the UK to replace the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning And Control aircraft will arrive in 2023.

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Paul42
Paul42
4 months ago

Perhaps the funds raised from the sales could be used to boost our E7 order back to 5? Then again that would make too much sense……

David Steeper
David Steeper
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

Presuming it’s 2 second hand E3D’s it’s doubtfull ! 😃 Keep up the positivity.

Coll
Coll
4 months ago
Reply to  David Steeper

At least one E7 is a repurposed airframe from Boeing Capital Corporation ex-fleet (BCC). Here is the history of N384BJ https://www.planespotters.net/airframe/boeing-737-700-n946bc-boeing-capital-corporation-bcc/r75k71?refresh=1

Last edited 4 months ago by Coll
David Steeper
David Steeper
4 months ago
Reply to  Coll

Now I know what you were talking about. Don’t assume everyone else is as smart as you ! 😀

Coll
Coll
4 months ago
Reply to  David Steeper

I wasn’t assuming anything. I was just trying to be helpful.

Johan
Johan
4 months ago
Reply to  Coll

All 3 are 2nd hand low hours

George Parker
George Parker
4 months ago
Reply to  Johan

It makes sense. Like the other commercials the 737 was designed for hard work and cost-effectiveness. They can be upgraded, are still being produced and serviced for several military users.

BB85
BB85
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

They will probably be given away or the purchase price will cover a deep overhaul. Not sure Chile will have the money to upgrade to the latest US standards but who knows.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
4 months ago
Reply to  BB85

They won’t – nor would they be sold them.

The only way they are being allowed to have these is because they are out of date.

That said they will be fine for dealing with anything in Latin America.

My only concern is that the discreet components involved in that vintage of high power electronics are pretty much unobtainable. Hence why were were retiring our progressively to keep a few going.

Airframe bits are fine as it is a common commercial type and there are loads in bone yards.

Fedaykin
Fedaykin
4 months ago

Their current EB-707 Condor AEW are getting on a bit so the chance to get what are still low cycle E-3D with many of years of flight hours left on them will be handy for Chile. My guess is these are a stop gap solution to allow them time to decide on a future more advanced replacement. As for parts they appear to be buying three airframes, flying two and parting out the third. They are presumably buying up the UK spares holding for the type alongside it. As for there being lots of 707 spares in bone yards not… Read more »

unbekanntesmann
unbekanntesmann
4 months ago

remember that, chile bought type 23 and they upgraded type 23 with the latest version of lockheed martin canada CMS upgrades (cms 330) , same sonar 2087, sea ceptor, harpoon block 2, link 22, AESA TRS 4D HENSOLDT, and upgraded the airbus helicopters super puma… and being the principal ally of US in Southamerica, totally posible, in addition the chilean senate aproved upgrade of the F-16 block 50 and MLU fleet in about USD 638 million

Last edited 4 months ago by unbekanntesmann
Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
4 months ago

I agree it is all possible.

Anything is possible with will, money and ingenuity!

I can see Chile buying some more T23 – knackered as they will be – if you have cheap shipyard labour localised replating is more possible.

I would suspect they would buy the ones with new engines.

Unbekanntesmann
Unbekanntesmann
4 months ago

I dont think it could be posible, I ve seem Chile bought some ex royal australian former vessels (adelaide), also there is a future building plan of New ships (posible type 35 under chilean requeriments) if chilean navy buys one more type 23 would be for spares…. everything is posible with money, and the aprovstion of the chilean government.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
4 months ago

I agree there was a plan to listen E build T31.

It is a big step up building warships from scratch to patching them up.

Is there anyone there that understands build QA?

How bad a problem is corruption in fabrication? Pretty bad from what I hear.

It only takes a few things to be substandard in a warship to compromise the whole design.

Paul T
Paul T
4 months ago
Reply to  BB85

Agree,that’s pretty much what happened with the 3 Type 23’s that were gifted to Chile.

sergiomoracea@gmail.com
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul T

134 million British pounds, it was not a gift, and on top of that, no weapons system, just the basics. but in 2017, they were modernized. They were impressive.

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

Won’t pay for the operational running costs and extra manpower required for an extra 2 aircraft though will it.

Johan
Johan
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

There is a Nasty Rumor within the industry that the AWACS platforms, are redundant if you operate, a modern fighting Fleet with a more powerful Radar. F35s don’t need an Awacs for support. Current Typhoon doesn’t need one either, only when a Tranche 1 was used for Air Cap, did we need Awacs support or used the Hawk T1 as aggressor squadrons. and why the E7s were trimmed and the fact that there are a huge amount of second-Hand airframes of 737 ng

Farouk
Farouk
4 months ago

Ive never understood this governments policy of getting rid of stuff before its replacement comes on line.

BB85
BB85
4 months ago
Reply to  Farouk

They role the dice and decide we won’t get much use out of it in the next 3-5 years and scrap it to save 100m in maintenance costs.

Johan
Johan
4 months ago
Reply to  BB85

Correct what we benefit we gain is questionable. as we no longer require this airframe

Coll
Coll
4 months ago
Reply to  Farouk

Freeing up some of the budget and revenue-generating, I guess.

Last edited 4 months ago by Coll
Frank62
Frank62
4 months ago
Reply to  Farouk

A reckless gamble.

Matt C
Matt C
4 months ago
Reply to  Frank62

But often a necessary one, much as we do not like it.

Johan
Johan
4 months ago
Reply to  Farouk

You have to understand the E3s and what their use was, Existing Upgraded Typhons and F35s don’t need an AWACS to track multiply targets, there on board systems are more powerful than the E3s.

Unless we used a Tranche 1 Typhoon or a Hawk T1, they are obsolete. and like the Sentinal R1s unless you have troops on the ground and in Mountain regions they are obsolete.

trimming fleets that are @ the end of their useful service life, and with the New Ground Radars in the UK. E3s are very much redundant

David Steeper
David Steeper
4 months ago

This is why this site is so successfull. Great scoop.

Knight7572
Knight7572
4 months ago

Well given their EB-707 Condor are old so this is either to replace the EB-707 Condor or for spare parts however this is bad news for Argentina no matter what

JOHNT
JOHNT
4 months ago

Chile (at least the navy) has a reputation of keeping older kit in good working order.

Hermes
Hermes
4 months ago

Its really hard to accept that type of decision:..

How can you get rid of your major assets without replacement ?

Last edited 4 months ago by Hermes
John Clark
John Clark
4 months ago
Reply to  Hermes

It the British way of doing things Hermes, cough, cough, aircraft carriers!

Hermes
Hermes
4 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Dont worry… If I really can say that…

Its not only the british way… That’s the sad point.

David Steeper
David Steeper
4 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Cough, cough, Ajax, Warrior !

Daveyb
Daveyb
4 months ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Cough, Harrier!

David Steeper
David Steeper
4 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Consider my hat tipped sir.

OkamsRazor
OkamsRazor
4 months ago
Reply to  Hermes

Would be useful to see a comprehensive review of our airborne surveillance assets so that readers had a more joined up view of our evolving force structure.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
4 months ago
Reply to  OkamsRazor

The problem is that nobody is going to be transparent about the radars and EW capabilities of the airborne assets. It is a bit like asking the Navy to be transparent about the full stats of ASTOR or CEPTOR – no way. If you release the data then it can be mitigated. Another way of looking at things is that a lot of what is here is getting pretty obsolete and if you know that Russia/China can jam or interfere with its mission there is little point in keeping the asset. So you end up in hard choicesville with either… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
4 months ago

Totally agree mate. We are forever guilty of not doing a full life plan on a piece of kit and its replacement. Normally not until that item is sated as being obsolete or going into obsolescence. It’s like the Army in particular require something along the lines of National Shipbuilding Strategy, but for heavy equipment! The RAF are just as guilty. How long does it take to introduce a new weapon system on a platform, that isn’t from the same country as that platform? There have been far to many equipment gap holidays. If things do kick off in Ukraine… Read more »

Mark Franks
Mark Franks
4 months ago

If true I wish the Chileans all the best. I have worked with them in the past and attended many a FIDEA airshow. Very professional and I hope they can squeeze a few more hours out of these airframes.

David Flandry
David Flandry
4 months ago

The Awacs aircraft are cut from 7 to 3 aircraft. But they are more capable. Same old story,same old dance.

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
4 months ago
Reply to  David Flandry

We haven’t operated 7 E3’s for a very long time. Went to 4 back in 2017. And the serviceability and availability rate of E7 will way outstrip E3.

John Hartley
John Hartley
4 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

When new, but once they get old………

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
4 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

I think AEW will be taken over by unmanned platforms well before the E7 becomes a maintenance liability.

Steve
Steve
4 months ago

I suspect they will replacing the IAI Phalcon AEW also based on 707 airframes:

EL/M-2075 Phalcon – Wikipedia

Ironically the Phalcon uses the the original ESM now upgraded for use on the E-7s to supplement its radar.

John Hartley
John Hartley
4 months ago

The interesting feature of RAF E-3D, was their ability to be air refuelled by flying boom AND probe & hose. Could we not take the probes from our retired E-3D & fit (at least a few of them) to our P-8 & E-7? After all, B707 & 737 share the same nose & fuselage diameter.

Richard B
Richard B
4 months ago

I was wondering if the MOD was assessing whether it was possible to bring a couple back into service as an emergency measure given the Ukraine situation. Alternatively, if it was a sales flight with of senior Chilean officers on board – they are probably now asking for extra discount!

Paul T
Paul T
4 months ago
Reply to  Richard B

No real need for RAF E3’s to return to service,NATO has a dedicated fleet plus you have member Countries own AWACS assets to be used if needed.

Johan
Johan
4 months ago

I Very much doubt it will include its Radar Kit, unless the USA approves the sale as the US doesn’t like to share its sniffer aircraft, Now i am sure Chilie has some Russian made SAM systems

Rene Metcalf
Rene Metcalf
4 months ago
Reply to  Johan

Chile has no russian systems they have the Nassam system, Peruvians have russian sams

George Ch
George Ch
4 months ago
Reply to  Johan

Russian weapons in Chile? Hahaha. Johan, please be more serious.

unbekanntesmann
unbekanntesmann
4 months ago
Reply to  Johan

im sure US will approve the sale cuz chile is a very important ally of US in southamerica, and it is also within the geopolitical zone in dispute with China over Rapa Nui, US recently approved the saleS to Chile of systems such as link 16, link 22 and the sale of SM2 missiles for the Chilean navy, No doubt the sale will be approved.

George Parker
George Parker
4 months ago

Good choice of customer. Chile do have a treacherous neighbour with a track record of invading soverign territory. Shame we can’t interest them in some used Tornados and Eurofighters. “One careful owner from new.” A formal alliance and mutual defence agreement would be good too. As would a joint amphibious task group deployment exercise. Just to keep the pot simmering.

unbekanntesmann
unbekanntesmann
4 months ago
Reply to  George Parker

There are defense agreements with Chile, Chile also has defense agreements with Canada, the United States and Australia, they are countries that share the Pacific Ocean with their interests over China, which is becoming more of a threat to everyone every day, including Chile… Chile has assisted Canada on 2 occasions by sending fleet replenishment vessels…. remember that Chile and the United Kingdom have a common enemy, Argentina, which to date is a tear in defense compared to Chile, but Argentina bets on rearming with Chinese weapons…

George Parker
George Parker
4 months ago

Which is why I wrote what I did. A more formal mutual defence agreement would be a “kick in the box” for both the CCP and the Argentinians. The later probably being of more importance to GB defence. Conducting an amphibious group exercise, using one of the numerous Chilean islands could be very useful exercise indeed. Not only to demonstrate our ability to repeat the liberation of the Falklands or support one of Argentina’s neighbours should they be threatened. But also demonstrating an ability to deploy land forces to the Pacific as needed. We could and hopefully would invite CA,… Read more »