The Sunday Times has reported that the UK will cut the order for E-7 Wedgetail aircraft from 5 to 3.

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

An excerpt from this article states.

“There will also be a gap in coverage from E-3D Sentry airborne early-warning radar planes for two to three years, while replacement Wedgetails will be cut from five to three.”

You can read more by visiting the original source here.

This isn’t surprising and it comes comes after speculation that the order for five E-7 Wedgetail aircraft would be reduced to three to save money.

Lord Moonie, a non-affiliated member of the House of Lords, asked via a written question last year:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many E-7 Wedgetail AWACS systems they plan to procure; and what is the anticipated delivery timescale of each such system.”

Baroness Goldie, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, responded:

“In March 2019, HM Treasury and the Ministry of Defence approved the procurement of five E-7 Wedgetail aircraft, however, discussions regarding the final E-7 Wedgetail fleet size are on-going with a decision expected in the first half of this year. The first UK E-7 Wedgetail is expected to enter service with the Royal Air Force in 2023.”

Media reports have already suggested the Ministry of Defence plans to reduce an order for new early warning radar aircraft.

The Wedgetail aircraft programme has already been criticised by MPs unhappy about the lack of a competition to replace the RAF’s existing Sentry aircraft – known as its ‘eye in the sky‘.

The MoD has not confirmed this. But could this leave the UK with a capability gap?

In September 2020 The Times’s defence correspondent, Lucy Fisher, reported on Twitter that the MoD is considering reducing the number of aircraft to be bought from five to three. Jane’s Defence Weekly magazine confirmed with an unnamed senior MOD source that the MoD is considering a reduction to save money.

In the Defence Equipment Plan 2019, the MOD forecast the costs of the Wedgetail programme to be £2.16 bn. When asked about the difference, the Minister for Defence Procurement explained the figure of £1.51 bn relates to the value of the aircraft procurement contract, whereas the £2.16 figure includes training and future support costs.

The National Audit Office has described the defence equipment plan as “unaffordable“. The NAO also advise that the MoD has already reduced the number of Sentry aircraft from six to three in 2020 to save money.

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Challenger

FFS! May as well not bother and just pay the Americans to keep a few stationed here.

John Clark

That really would be a foolish decision, I can’t play devils advocate here, I just can’t see a good reason for such a cut.

if it’s true, remember, the week before a defence review is always wild rumours time…

Andy P

I hope you’re right about the wild rumours John, this is quite a scary one, more scary than the 48 F35’s.

Challenger

It’s madness! For the sake of what must be relatively peripheral savings in the grand scheme of things we’ll end up with a fleet that’s barely able to manage UK airspace – let alone deploy on operations anywhere else!

Johan

i think some shadow MP said its only another £10b in a throw-away comment. if its not made in this country the money is going straight out the door.

Biden has pissed a few people off in the UK Govs with his comments.

Mark F

It seems the Times have somehow got an advanced copy of the defence review. Its available on pprune.org.

Andy P

Cheers mate, will have a look. I don’t subscribe to The Times so only got the top of the article.

Robert Blay

We have operated only 4 E3’s since March 2019. 3 E7’s will have much more capability and availability. We have a 190Bn Equipment budget for the next 10 years to fund, and even with the extra 16Bn, we are still short. So some cuts will be needed to ensure we can afford T26, T31/32, Astute, Dreadnaught class, Tempest, F35, Typhoon upgrades keep both aircraft carrier’s, ect, and lot’s of other very nice toys, along with new capabilites, and finally set the MOD on a much needed sustainable long-term budget plan.

BB85

You make a fair point. I do think cutting the numbers to 3 though means we are really only capable of patrolling our own airspace which is fair enough. Germany and Poland should pay to cover their own and if America wants to go on a foreign war again with Britain tagging along they can provide plenty of awac cover, or we can just sit out. We need to invest in missiles, drones, Tempest, boxer, Frigates and the list goes on.

Johan

as the confirmed review is not out yet, NAO has some daming cost wastes, And i would expect to see a cull of orders and equipment. if we are cutting foreign aid, its getting serious. 1% to NHS is poor but the country cannot afford to keep borrowing. buying bullets/bombs/bandages when no one will use them is a waste.

Steve R

Christ!

All these cuts, are we sure that the PM isn’t actually Jeremy Corbyn with a Boris mask and wig on?

Meirion X

Most likely because Covid has destroyed BoJoke’s brain, to the level of Corbyn’s!

Last edited 1 month ago by Meirion X
Supportive Bloke

Does it really make sense having only 3 Rivets and 3 E7? Granted Rivet is a bit special as it is an Elint sniffer and therefore does not need to be persistent in battle space overwatch. But the E7 does need to be persistent. There must be MVFS Minimum Viable Fleet Size once you looks at the costs of training support, spares and infrastructure. There is the other side of this that fused sensors – satellite, drone and ground sensors might be able to put together the same picture and as MOD are clearly racing in the drone direction there… Read more »

ChariotRider

I agree 3x E7 is too small unless, as you suggest, there is a move towards additional more resilient means to compose the air and surface pictures. If the latter, then the 3x E7 could be viewed as a short term gap filler while something else is put in place. The rcent procurement of a stake in satellite network OneWeb could provide a future option for an earth observation capability and there is also the well publicised move into uncrewed autonomous vehicles right across the board. I just hope that if this cut is true, then: 1) There is something… Read more »

Glass Half Full

A couple of thoughts. Wedgetail is only currently planned as a capability through 2035, if the extension of AWACs timeline planned in the 2015 SDSR holds. There seems to be an increasing concern over deploying large commercial airframe based capabilities like tankers, AEW and ISTAR close to combat zones because of their increasing vulnerability to long range attack. That probably goes double for an AWACS aircraft transmitting powerful radar signals for long range Anti-Radiation Missiles to lock onto. The Chinese J-20 seems to have been specifically designed to target US tankers for example. Clearly the future of aggregated sensor fusion… Read more »

Watcherzero

Would only work if in the long term they were thinking of acquiring a more capable carrier borne early warning aircraft leaving the E7 to protect UK airspace and the occasional sortie to Europe/North Africa/ Middle East supporting an operation.

It may also be a tacit acknowledgement that a large poorly manoeuvring aircraft powerfully broadcasting its position for hundreds of miles is a very inviting target in offensive operations where being 100-200 miles behind its frontline escort is no longer putting it out of range of enemy counterattack.

Last edited 1 month ago by Watcherzero
rossco

would that not apply to all awac’s being put in harms way

Glass Half Full

Agree regarding vulnerability and enhanced carrier AEW.

Lordtemplar

I thought defence was getting more money, ie around 15billion over next few years. AWACS is a fairly critical asset. Is this cut wise when many nations are increasing their military spending? Seems China, Japan and S Korea have bigger armies than Europe. (China i understand, but falling behind Japan and Korea is a head scratcher)

Mark

Japan has about twice the population of the UK or any individual nation of Europe while South Korea has a hostile neighbour on it’s doorstep.

BB85

Asian nations face a much bigger threat from China than we do from Russia. Chinese fishing vessels have been illegally fishing in the South China Sea unchecked by their smaller neighbours and they seem to want to carve up more of India. There is a full blown cold War taking place and let’s hope it doesn’t turn hot.

Glass Half Full

Japan is only ~30 miles from Russian territory, although its perhaps more realistic to say its less than 200 miles from mainland Russia, and less than 500 miles from China and N. Korea. Not a friendly neighbourhood.

David

Pathetic! Absolutely useless quantity.

Pacman27

This is a step too far for me. i understand times are hard but look, successive uk government have not been ,eating the minimum NATO requirement with even the last accounts showing a £7bn shortfall as per stated gdp from the ONS. not sure how Ben Wallace can say £38bn is 2.1% of gdp when 0.7% is £15bn for foreign aid… it is just false. so first let’s be honest, the MOD is being short changed and Nick Carter is the worst chief of staff ever, having resided over FRES, Strike and now this. there is a real opportunity to… Read more »

Rob N

I suspect there will be a lot of speculation prior to the defence review. Only some of which will link to reality. I will wait for an official anouncement.

Captain P Wash

don’t hold your breath mate.

Captain P Wash

OK…. Is this another False news item or are we actually going to cut everything ? It’s getting stupid either way.

Mark

It’s a week before the Review comes out, so pretty much normal for these types of stories, guess it’s wait and see now.

Daniele Mandelli

Read the ST article mate, if true it’s a massacre of the RAF and Army especially.

I also hear it’s the whole range of options so not all may happen.

Also, leak the worst then when it’s less than feared people such with relief and cuts seem not so bad.

We shall see.

Captain P Wash

Yes mate, I know it’s all up in the air so to speak but Why ? Why if BJ has committed an extra £20 Billion to address decades of cuts, are we even seeing these reports ?

Daniele Mandelli

Maybe they are wrong.

Will be interesting how, given what he said before, if this happens and how he gets out of it.

The ST reports also do not list any of the extras that may come apart from Tempest.

Watcherzero

There was a black hole in the Equipment budget that was hovering between £12-13bn over 10 years from unfinanced equipment commitments and savings in spending not yet identified. Boris last year announced £16bn over four years increase in spending but only about £7bn of that was for equipment including R&D with a couple of billion being new commitments added in Tempest, Intelligence and space assets. The net effect is there is still a circa £7-8bn shortfall in the equipment budget over 10 years that needs plugging through cuts in planned acquisitions, actual savings or further increases to spending. For instance… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Watcherzero
Daniele Mandelli

on a DARPA style agency”

“ARIA” And also wholly exempt from the FOIA I believe.

Captain P Wash

UK defence budget for 2021….. £53 Billion… what exactly is going so wrong and more to the point, where the hell is it all going ? Cuts cuts cuts and more bloody Cuts is all we are seeing and hearing about.

Daniele Mandelli

Trident in core.
Pensions in core.
Fat cats wallets ( MI complex ) ( Tempest is the Carrot of 2021. In 1995 there were a whole list of carrots to justify the cuts then ).
Incompetence. ( Programme over runs )
Wages.
Maintenance.

But all this news is still speculation mate.

Captain P Wash

Speculation it might be but…… just take a look at the past 70 years……. take a look at the RAF just a few decades back…. Harriers, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Phantoms, Tornado’s, Nimrods, Lightnings, Shackletons, Hawks, …… all or nearly all gone and replaced with a few dozen Typhoons and a handfull ( No where even near a deck load ) of F35’s……. this is criminal in my view.

Daniele Mandelli

Mate. I AGREE with you. I’m looking at what positives we can take. That this is still not all confirmed.

On the army, check out the future 2035 plans. All Arms Groups of 500 men, with lots of unmanned alongside to provide the mass.

Ryan Brewis

“All Arms Groups of 500 men, with lots of unmanned alongside to provide the mass”
Say what now? I don’t want to be too much a downer (I’ll save that for the F-35 cuts article) but unless AI and unmanned vehicle tech development picks up massively, that sounds a bit BS.

Daniele Mandelli

I hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise.

Check out the document, its on the latest UKAFC article concerning the latest thinking of the army.

Nigel Collins

The way things are looking, that’s exactly what appears to be happening.
https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/usaf-seeks-next-gen-multirole-uas-capabilities

Expect The USA to cut original numbers quoted of F’35’s and replace them with 4.5 gen replacements for a high low mix until 6th gen arrives.

There’s also talk of cancelling the F35 programme and using the money to develop two new fighters. One for the Airforce and one for the Navy.

This is going to be a very interesting year for sure!

Nigel Collins

This was interesting too.

“US defence industry firm BAE Systems has been contracted by Boeing to support the company’s effort to develop low-rate initial production (LRIP) variants of a new defensive electronic warfare (EW) suite for the US Air Force’s fleet of F-15 jet fighters.”

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/bae-systems-secures-lrip-deal-for-usaf-ew-programme

Klonkie

This is my ongoing bug bear Cpt PW. The RAF went from 32 ish front line jets sqns in 1990 to circa 9 at present. So the RN is apparently returning o a 24 surface combat ships , about 50% of 1990 levels. Excellent news for the Navy (if it actually materializes) – but were is the balance for RAF front line jet sqns?.

So at a 50% force level from 1990, logic alone would suggest 16 sqns, prudence would demand it. RAF at the thin end of the wedge again- pun intended re the apparent wedgetail cuts ,

James Fennell

Deep breathing exercises everyone. Its the Sunday before review frenzy. These is going to be a shift towards automation, space, hybrid and cyber capabilites, but also an emphasis on maritime and Asia-Pacific. There will be losers – fewer men and more machines. Lost in the frenzy was the order placed last week for the first Project Mosquito ‘Loyal Wingman’ demonstrator from the company fomerly known as Bombadier in NI. Three of those working with every F-35 and Tempest is a lot of extra capacity. Also I suspect Tempest will be acellerated. Cats and traps for UCAVs can also be used… Read more »

dave12

You have to wonder if rumors of massive defence cuts will happen,why are we even bothering to send QE to the in south china sea, they must be laughing and we are officially not a power any more .

Captain P Wash

Up Voted.

Mark F

Stupid and short sighted what else can one say.

Captain P Wash

Also, Up Voted……

CJH

Here we go again. Big Announcements and Ballyhoo when an order is made then some time down the line it is reduced because of cost. Well, what is the cost if the UK is defenceless against incursion? Bad enough that we don’t have an anti-ballistic missile defence system. What sensible person thinks that any aggressor is going to mount Luftwaffe Style Air Attacks with our plucky Typhoon pilots emulating their forebears? Truth is you press a button to launch a bunch of strategic hyper speed ballistic missiles and watch the result via a satellite link. Get real Britain.

James Fennell

I imagine part of the logic is due to the medium term obsolescence of these manned ISTAR platforms. MoD probably want to invest in an effective automated space-based and/or UCAV persistent surveillance capability for the early warning role. And also need something to work with carriers that is better than crowsnest. Most of these signalled early retirements – Type 23, C-130, Puma and older Chinook, Challenger, Warrior, Light Gun, AS90 are long in the tooth and costly to sustain. Probably looking to save money on operating cost to bring forward delivery of new kit, given uplift in budget. It should… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by James Fennell
Glass Half Full

Agreed. We either carry on as we have, or pivot to meaningful upgrades designed to be viable and effective for the potential battle spaces of the future.

In an ideal world we’d migrate from one to the other with an overlap, but we are too late for that to make sense in many cases.

dan

What the hell are the Brits doing????????????

Mark

Scrap the whole lot and save money.

For what we are going to be left with, a little bit of everything, but not enough to be a useful force as a whole, it’s just pointless expense.

Just accept the fact the country can’t be bothered to fund defending itself.

No wonder recruitment is so difficult!

Last edited 1 month ago by Mark
Martyn Parker

This is what happens when you lock a country down for over a year, have the government pay peoples wages and keep zombie businesses alive by sucking on the public tit, what has been borrowed has to be paid for, military is an easy target, the man in the street doesn’t really feel the difference, all this for a virus with an over 98% survival rate and people think that those that have opposed these measures are the Covidiots

Mark

Nice rant, but you do realise that the Equipment budget blackhole was well flagged long before the pandemic.Heavy cuts were always going to happen, and the AWACs cut has been openly discussed for some time now.

Martyn Parker

What was ranting about it????? Cold hard facts, when you add a trillion pounds to the debt pile things have to be cut to pay for this new reality and as for the cuts being openly talked about, since when???? Since Covid, either come at me facts or don’t come at all, TBH your post sounds a lot more ranting than mine

David Barry

How are your grandparents?

Derek

2% of 65,000,000 people, if it was allowed to spread unchecked is 650,000 deaths! You really think they did the wrong thing?

Damo

A highly contagious virus that has killed 1 in 50 who have it. Your disregard for human life and the livelihoods of your fellow citizens is bizarre. The government is supposed to serve the people. What do you want them to do? Let people die and let people fall into poverty?

Martyn Parker

Liar

Meirion X

I agree before Covid the outlook for defence was much rosier, with a sustained growing economy and budgets!

RobW

Here’s a fact. With a 98% survival rate the virus could kill 1.3m people in the UK alone if we just let it run rampant through the population. Even with the restrictions it’s currently about 130k I believe. Just what figure is acceptable when you are talking about people’s lives?

Airborne

Just 3? I have to say if these reports coming out are true then we are about to get to bare minimum, full on paper tiger. FFS cuts will be, and are expected but force multipliers and ISTAR assets should remain as is.

Airborne

I wonder if this is all scare mongering, leaking worst case scenario so when we do get told what’s being cut, we actually breathe a sigh of relief and are made to think it could have been worse!

Daniele Mandelli

Hope so! Pray so.

dave12

That could be the case AB all these reported cuts seem bonkers.

Andrew

Just more bad news

Fat Dave

More evidence, along with cuts to the Army, that the two aircraft carriers have unbalanced our Defence for a generation or more

dan

Now that Trump is gone Britain will reverse all the stuff they promised to do regarding more money and kit for the British military since Boris knows China Joe doesn’t have the balls to keep the pressure on NATO nations to do more than they’ve done in the past. Ugh

Lordtemplar

What are you on about? It was under Obama that NATO set the 2% of GDP target over the next few years (Biden was VP then) Trump just trolled on something that had already been discussed and agreed, he added/changed nothing to this.

Damo

He won’t listen. It’s either China Joe or anti Merkel every time

Mark

Seriously? You can’t actually believe any of that?

Jonny

The times also reported that there would be a decrease in defence spending about a week or so before the increase in defence spending was announced. I don’t really care about rumours.

Johan

No one Paying taxes, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT, think if you look @ the contract 1st 3 airframes have been sourced from ext fleet surplus. there are currently 1000s of 737 airframes sat parked and value has plummeted. country needs to balance its books. WISH LISTS. are closed

Johan

Do you think they noticed the pod fitted to the posiden p8 in USAF service, that makes these not required? Plus NATO is upgrading there fleet.

donald_of_tokyo

At least 4. Adding at least one, please.