Home Air British firm Marshall commence preparatory work for UK E-7 fleet
An E-7 Wedgetail.

British firm Marshall commence preparatory work for UK E-7 fleet


Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group in Cambridge has signed a contract with Boeing to commence preparatory work for the E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) Programme.

The company say that the contract facilitates Boeing’s selection of Marshall to undertake the complex aircraft modification work to build five E-7 aircraft for the Royal Air Force.

The subsequent programme of work is being discussed between the companies, and will be announced in due course.

Marshall is responsible for the conversion and delivery of the new fleet, and this contract with Boeing will ensure it is fully prepared to begin the modification process in Cambridge early in 2021.

The programme will see Marshall turn 737 Next-Generation aircraft into E-7s, including adding the Northrop Grumman Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) surveillance radar, communication and mission computer systems.

The E-7 will modernise the UK’s airborne battle management capability and provide situational awareness by tracking multiple airborne and maritime targets simultaneously, with a surveillance coverage of four million square kilometers over a single 10-hour flight period.

With the E-7, the RAF will become the latest operator of the advanced AEW&C aircraft, a platform already proven in operations around the world with the Royal Australian Air Force, the Turkish Air Force and the Republic of Korea Air Force.

Marshall Aerospace and Defence CEO Alistair McPhee explains:

“We are delighted that we have been selected by Boeing for this role in the delivery of the E-7 and are very proud to be playing such a key role on such a strategically important programme for the UK MOD.

It is a great validation of the work that we are already doing for the RAF to drive availability of the C-130 fleet and builds on over 50 years’ of partnering. Along with our unrivalled expertise in complex integration projects, it is a clear demonstration of our ability to develop and deliver world-leading applied engineering services.

We have a team of employees ready to work on this programme which will ensure we are prepared to start immediately on modifying the first aircraft when it arrives with us in Cambridge. We will be further growing the team as we move towards 2021 and agree the follow-on work to modify the aircraft as the programme matures.”

Anna Keeling, managing director for Boeing Defence UK, says:

“The E-7 programme will provide the RAF with a combat-proven capability that is both low risk and the best capability in the world, and I’m proud that we will be modifying the planes here in Cambridge and further contributing to the continued growth of aerospace in the UK. Boeing and our key supplier Marshall are fully dedicated to delivering the world’s most advanced, proven, capable and reliable command-and-control aircraft to the RAF.”

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Will Marshall compete to provide further E7 conversions for new customers? Could be a nice line of business


Probably not, because I’m guessing that Marshals will be fitting mod kits supplied by Boeing and Northrop. This makes it easier for new customers to establish their own conversion lines; which happened in Australia, Turkey and South Korea.



How does the Wedgetail compare to the E-3 Sentry in terms of effectiveness?

Any scopies out there who can answer


I’m no expert but a good analogy would probably be comparing a fighter like the F-15 or Typhoon with their legacy mechanically scanned radars to the same planes equipped with the latest AESA radars. A revolutionary leap in capabilities.


What I understand is AESA is a targetted radar, which once targetted can track harder to trace targets. It does howefe come with a draw back that it doesn’t have full 360d coverage, so once locked onto a threat, there is a risk it would completely miss a threat coming from another direction. I think ideally you would want both types but that is not affordable

Matthew East

Not quite mate. Actually does come with full 360d view and it can track more then one target at a time from completely opposite directions. What the radar allows you to do is to increase the power into looking into one air thus increasing range/accuracy but it in no way turns off the radar looking at every other direction. The radar can literally track 180 targets and conduct 24 intercepts at any one time (At least based on what we have been told, The RAAF aircraft are that bloody secretive you are likely to get shot trying to get in… Read more »


As Matthew says below, the multi-role electronically scanned array (MESA) does have a 360 degree view. Unlike Saab’s Erieye that can only scan to the sides, the MESA has additional transceiver modules fitted to the front and rear of the “top hat fairing” fitted atop the fuselage, this gives it the full 360 view. All AESA and PESA flat panel array radars have a field of regard/view of +/- 60 degrees vertically and horizontally. Therefore the Erieye is limited to a left and right view of 120 degrees which gives you two 60 degree blindspots front and rear. The reason… Read more »


Great post. Summed it up.
The fact that there is a GaN upgrade pending also means the E-7 remains at the forefront of AEW&C capability for the coming decade or more.


Hi Guys,

I think you will all find the attached PDF presentation (35 pages), extremely informative regarding the E-7A Wedgetail in RAAF service:


The presentation is titled: Advise and Strike – The Development of the E7-A Wedgetail.

It is extremely comprehensive and should answer a lot of questions.




Just read it.
Your right very comprehensive and lots of telling insight.
Especially interesting to read that E3 reliability and availability was poor and the US Commanders wanted the Wedgetail on task as first choice AEWAC



Gunbuster, mate, glad you took the time to read the link to the PowerPoint, and have got something out of it too (it really is worth the read!). As an Aussie I’ve followed this RAAF project (well before it evolved into what has become the E-7A Wedgetail), for many decades. I’m not going to quote all the quotes (they are there to be read in the link above), but what people need to understand is that when Wedgetail went to the ME in 2014 to be part of the ADF’s ‘Operation OKRA’, it was only at IOC and had not… Read more »

Mr Andrew J Poulton

Is there TL:DR.? Asking for a friend


It’s absolutely nuts to think this plane can cover 4 million square kilometres in a 10hr mission…..it’s also great how it has maritime capabilities and could help out if needed considering the few P8s we are buying.

Nick C

The other thing that is nuts is that two are conversions from existing aircraft, rather than new builds. Once Boeing sort out the Max programme there will be some more 737 NG’s available which might mean that more could be bought as a follow up batch. I appreciate that making the radar and mission kit takes both time and money but it could be a future force stretcher. Always depending on how the new team live up to their promises, or not.


I doubt we will buy any more wedgetails m8, but even Australia has bough more which shows we bought to few.


I’m not sure about that, just look at the size of Australia. Same size as Western Europe.


Yeah but these planes are battlefield control early warning platforms for over hostile areas of the globe. Australia is vastly empty and no one would invade it or start a war there.


?? Is that why Australia are buying 9 new frigates? As anyone noticed the coastline that covers Australia’s vast hinterland? Well one side of that long line is sea. Surely that sea will be wide as well as deep and will need airborne aircraft to protect it all?

The logic of no one possibly wanting to invade (the mineral rich) Australia would lead them not to bother about defence at all.

Matthew East

Your completely missing the the entire point of the ADF. We don’t have it because people want to invade, Hell even the Japanese army in WWII ruled out invading Australia is being entirely impossible and they where fighting in bloody China. Why we do have the ADF though is 1. So we actually have forces that can be used abroad as we have done for over 100 years and 2. An insurance policy. You get insurance on your car not because some one will go and steal it, But that they might one day steal it. Cheaper to have the… Read more »


OPVs, you say? You should have said earlier! We have some round the back, in fact, nearly new and only a few sheared bolts here and there, but dont worry, the bolt heads have all been glued back on!

Fancy it much??


I think you are missing my point. The other commentator was saying that Australia has a vast innet area of empty space, this in the context of not wanting maritime aircraft. In fact Australia is surrounded by vast areas of sea and definitely needs maritime aircraft. And of course frigates.

As an aside, as Australia with the vast resources it as and which it needs to export… some via the Suez canal… one wonders why it itself does not help patrol the Red Sea etc, like we do.

Matthew East

The other commentator did say that and to be fair he isn’t far off the mark. Invading the vast amount of Australia would gain little to no strategic value for any enemy as the majority of our industry and bases are to the far east or down south (plus Perth) with everything else to the North/West being minor bases or unoccupied bases meant to be used purely for emergencies. To knock out Australia one would have to remove the main military installations, government and industry which for the vast bulk is down towards the South East of Australia. That being… Read more »


But OZ is buying far more p8 Poseidon’s than the UK for its oceans and for all over the globe really.


The distance between Perth and Sydney is about 2500 miles. It needs bases on either side of the continent.


Yeah Oz assets will be deployed far away from Australia jut like the E7s ect do.


they have their p8 Poseidon’s also and they are buying far more than the UK, OZ is vast I know, but including all British over seas territory’s we have just as big even bigger in fact than Australia.


Consider employing UAVs like Tritons for general patrol and deploy the P-8s for targeted missions. The Australians will use their Poseidons this way, coupled with Tritons and their Over-The-Horizon Radar (JORN)


the following is a fascinating listen if you have time. Really very very interesting discussion on what Australia might want to consider in terms of future defence strategy given the changing world order…

Matthew East

Oh dont start me on him. Bloke is out of touch and missing more then a few marbles. His force idea for the ADF would totally stuff it all up. Wants to scrap the LHD’s, get rid of the destroyers and changes the future frigates to literal patrol frigates ie: What the Anzacs where when we first got them before upgrades then get nuclear weapons o.0


Too bad the US isn’t buying 20 or so of these to replace their old AWACS. I guess since the US and NATO AWACS fleets were recently upgraded they can last a bit longer than the British AWACS fleet that didn’t get the latest upgrades.


There has certainly been some discussion within the USAF and DoD about procuring the E-7a and NATO as well for that matter. Block 40/45 certainly resolves some issues for the E-3 and maintains its credibility for longer. It should also be remembered that the E-3 is not fitted with an M-SCAN radar (albeit it is mechanically rotated) but rather a Passive Electronically Scanned radar and coupled with modern computers is capable of very good performance. Whilst the E-3 in service including our own have loads of fatigue life left and could fly for decades more they are based upon a… Read more »


The upgrade that USAF, NATO and France have paid for doesn’t even come close to matching the capabilities of the E7’s MESA radar. The upgrades are mostly to the back end of the radar ie signal processing. It does not improve on the AN/APY2’s beam forming or waveform techniques. The RAF’s E3s are not getting the upgrade for a number of reasons, one of which is the airframe. There are significant issues and costs trying to maintain the serviceability of the fleet. The MoD have decided to cut their losses and buy new. This is because there will be less… Read more »


Out of interest, does an AESA/MESA radar require appreciably more back-end computing power vs conventional or PESA given it’s requirement (I assume) to do phase calculations to get the beam forming and for AESA the potential requirement to do those for different frequencies near-simultaneously? Also, out of interest, if you are allowed to disclose it then what is your background? You certainly seem to know your stuff. Finally, whatever your background, thanks for all the highly informed comment that you add to the radar-related discussions. You are one of a number of commentators that really make the comments sections of… Read more »


On a scale of complexity the MESA/AESA is at the top followed by PESA, with the mechanical scanned at the bottom. The possible future passive radar is up there with AESA due to the way it must compute data from tens if not hundreds of feeds from phone towers etc. What has significantly helped with digital radar development is Moore’s law and parallel processing. These two have enabled the use of much larger algorithms used for signal processing which is the key performance factor for all radars. The Typhoon’s mechanical scanned pulse-doppler CAPTOR-M is accredited as being one of the… Read more »


It sucks how the UKDJ goes on holiday at the wkends! and we get no posts!….

Daniele Mandelli

Lol behave! He has a life I’m sure!


I know I know, it’s an addiction!

Rob Colli

I teach full time! I try to stay up to date in the week but am also bugged a bit by the weekend blackout! It makes me think of that wonderful dialogue in the first episode of Yes prime Minister: Bernard Woolley: That’s why that torpedo landed on Sandwich golf course. Jim Hacker: I didn’t read about that in the paper. Bernard Woolley: Of course not Prime Minister, there was a cover-up: The members just found a new bunker on the seventh fairway the next morning. Jim Hacker: Still if we could get the Americans to strengthen their conventional forces.… Read more »

Andrew Mottram

Will the RAF keep the ‘Wedgetail’ name? The ‘Wedgetail’ name for the E-7 is specific to the RAAF. (It is a large Eagle native to Australia.) I think the Turkish AF call their E-7 something else.

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