The UK will rely on the multinational ‘NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force’ to fill the gap between E-3D Sentry retiring this year and E-7 Wedgetail coming online in 2023.
Further confirmation of this came today thanks to a written Parliamentary question.
Mark Francois, Member of Parliament for Rayleigh and Wickford, asked:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what estimate he has made of the date on which the (a) last E-3D sentry aircraft will be retired from operational service and (b) first E-7 Wedgetail will achieve initial operating capacity in Royal Air Force service.”
Jeremy Quin, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, responded today:
“We will retire the E-3D Sentry from operational service later in 2021, as part of the transition to the more modern and more capable fleet of three E-7 Wedgetail aircraft, which are expected to enter service in December 2023. The United Kingdom remains part of the NATO AEW&C Force Headquarters.”
Wedgetail (pictured above) 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.
“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 introduction into service of the 16 long range Protector remotely piloted systems will be the backbone of persistent, multi spectral surveillance, with the ability to strike and act decisively against our potential adversaries around the globe.”
What is the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force?
Under NATO Allied Air Command’s operational control, the Airborne Early Warning and Control Force operates a fleet of Boeing E-3A ‘Sentry’ Airborne Warning & Control System aircraft, better known as AWACS. These aircraft provide members with an immediately available air and maritime surveillance as well as airborne command and control and air battle management capability.
NATO say on their website that the Airborne Early Warning and Control Force is “the Alliance’s largest collaborative venture”.
“A venture that exemplifies NATO’s ability to facilitate multinational cooperation and to exploit the benefits of that the pooling of resources can bring.”