Cuts to the RAF’s E-7 Wedgetail AEW Mk1 aircraft purchase “terrible portent for the UK Armed Forces” say experts.
The Human Security Centre say they are alarmed by the apparent decision to reduce the planned fleet of UK Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft from five to three.
🚨 Britain is set to slash its order of early-warning radar jets, redrawing a controversial contract awarded without competition in bid to save money
MoD has drawn up plans to revise order for E-7 Wedgetail jets from five to three, I'm told
US figures unhappy with move
— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) September 22, 2020
Senior Fellow and Security and Defence team leader, Dr Rowan Allport, said:
“When Russian aircraft are probing UK and NATO air defences on a regular basis, one of the primary conventional wartime threat to the British mainland comes from low-flying cruise missiles which are difficult to detect using ground-based radar, and the complexity of the air environment facing deployed UK forces is greater than ever, the decision to reduce the purchase of E-7 Wedgetail aircraft below the already bare-bones planned fleet of five is very difficult to justify. Arguments that these platforms are vulnerable to modern long-range air defence missiles and low-observation fighters have merit, but the choice right now is either an adequate fleet of traditional airborne early warning and control aircraft or accepting a significant capability gap until more robust uncrewed systems of a type that are not yet in service anywhere in the world become available. The proposed cuts also set a terrible portent for the UK Armed Forces regarding the wider outcome of the current Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. There is no route to a Global Britain if we are unable to even provide adequate radar coverage over the North Sea.”
Senior Fellow Simon Schofield added:
“The decision to reduce the number of E-7 Wedgetails raises serious questions as to whether the UK will be able to maintain its NATO commitments. The proposed cut also ignores the critical role such aircraft have in generating situational awareness and providing air asset coordination in peacetime and during less intense conflicts – the latter including the ongoing effort against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It is vital that the MoD reconsider this decision.”