STS Aviation Services will convert Boeing 737 airliners to E-7 Wedgetails for the Royal Air Force.

The conversion work – turning commercial 737 Next Generation airliners into a modern airborne battle management fleet – is expected to create more than 100 highly skilled jobs in the West Midlands: 90 with STS Aviation Services and 30 more with Boeing, say the firm in a press release.

The first two US-based aircraft have been stripped to their frames and those arrived in the UK this week.

The work was previously announced for Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, the firm however have withdrawn from the project. Marshall remains a valued supplier to Boeing and the two companies will continue their partnership on other programmes like the P-8.

The Birmingham-based employees of STS Aviation Services will join the 50 Boeing employees already working on the Wedgetail programme throughout the UK, including at Bristol, Yeovil and RAF Waddington.

The new work will be done at the hangar formerly operated by Monarch Aircraft Engineering at Birmingham Airport.

“The Royal Air Force (RAF) announced in March 2019 a contract for five Wedgetail aircraft, guaranteeing the UK the world’s most effective AEW&C aircraft at a fixed price. The Wedgetail’s advanced radar and 10 state-of-the-art mission crew consoles can track airborne and maritime targets simultaneously, allowing crews to direct offensive and defensive forces while maintaining continuous surveillance of an operational area.

The Wedgetail is a proven aircraft that is currently in service around the world, including by Royal Australian Air Force, which used the aircraft on operations in the battle against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. It has been continuously improved since its inception, and it is the most capable aircraft of its type.”

“We are thrilled to be partnering with STS Aviation Services in Birmingham on the Wedgetail,” said Anna Keeling, managing director of Boeing Defence UK.

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First of one if Domo gets his way.

Daniele Mandelli

Is that true? Or a case of Boeing increasing the price by billions of dollars after Gavin Williamson signed for the aircraft?

No wonder DC has a bad rep with comments thrown about like that with no evidence whatsoever behind them.


Danielle he has a bad rep due to his actions and the issue that he will gut traditional defence in the coming review. He obviously has a lot on Johnson considering what he has got away with.

Daniele Mandelli

Hi Patrick. Lets go though that then. His actions: Led Brexit leave campaign. Public enemy no 1 for that alone. Wants to reform the civil service from the dinosaur it is to a more efficient version. With the state of MoD procurement that is to be applauded! He drove in a car, isolated from society, bar his immediate family, hundreds of miles, then made another shorter journey. Whether this is right or wrong, let’s get in the real world and consider the risks of that COMPARED to people massing on beaches, students partying like there is no tomorrow, millions ignoring… Read more »

The Big Man

Totally agree. the thoughts behind DC reforming stuff is to be applauded.
As to his possible mistake. When is the last time anyone made a mistake at work and decided to resign. Get over it. He has more to offer than a simple drive oop north. Which after all, was to an isolated property that enabled child care.
We just live a witch hunt in the country. ‘He who has not sinned may cast the first stone’, or something like that.


That gives me no confidence whatsoever Boris.

John Clark

I also agree, the machinery of state is not fit for purpose and ‘long’ overdue for root and branch reform. The civil service is one the last bastion of the ‘I don’t care, I get paid anyway’ attitude. Defence procurement needs fundamental reform. As for the E7 not being tendered, what was the alternative??? A euro Airbus ‘E7’ make-believe dream? Reinventing the wheel at three times the cost. The E7 hits the sweet spot: It’s intial development money has been paid by others, it’s fully operational and de-risked. It’s mature, but with interesting potential upgrade paths. We can get involved… Read more »


Problem is, there is precious little evidence that he has any of the knowledge or skills required to actually achieve this if it were not for the mythical (and overhyped) qualities of the man the idea of him being in control of this would be a mix of laughter and heads battering against walls Infact I suspect there is plenty of the latter going on from both the entrenched and the more enlightened factions. He was in the wilderness for years before the Brexit maverick act and has hardly covered himself in glory since even if his influence cannot be… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Absolutely. My passionate defence was purely against the sort of sweeping statement of the original poster. We do not know. Hitler and Stalin? Ooh that is another one I’d enjoy a good chat over. Up to 1942 as far as I’m concerned Hitler’s military strategy and instinct was correct, it was the generals who reached for the stars with their Moscow obsession and over reached the Wermacht. Stalin was the opposite. He was useless to start and frozen with indecision and as the war progressed trusted his generals to make the right judgements. Let us see. As I said I… Read more »


He was also, in fact, a chief architect of the stunning conservative victory. He is not an illusion, he has substance to back the bluster against waste and inadequacy. Is he “practically perfect in every way”? Of course not, only Mary Poppins is … but you dismiss him at your peril.

Robert Blay

Agreed, well said mate. And if he shakes up MOD procurement, then all the better.👍


He broke lockdown, just because others did does not excuse it. When he was caught out he showed zero remorse and was angered that the “plebs” caught him out.
His comments about the carriers showed his ignorance in defence matters. He’s as Cameron put it a “professional psychopath”. Yes procurement especially for the Army has been decades of disaster. But, he’ll shove his review through, which could gut defence for what will probably only be a modest cyber capability.

Squirrel Nutkins

Too true, can’t believe a poster on here is defending him for breaking lockdown especially in the position he holds. That was the turning point for many people – us so called “plebs” – can’t blame people for thinking, ‘well if the government and their top advisor is ignoring the rules, so will I ‘ .

Daniele Mandelli

Morning Squirrel I hold NO bitterness for DC for his actions compared to the CONTEMPT I have for others ignoring social distancing. My Wife and I have been to not one restaurant, not one Pub, and taken no holiday this year. We even avoid people in the street!!! So I don’t need to be shown what is right and wrong thank you. I was actually countering Patrick on the usual mud throwing claims of what DC wants to do regards defence, without any evidence to back it up, and expanded on the reply he gave me that it is due… Read more »

Andy P

While I broadly agree with your approach to witch hunts and the level of breaking the guidance. I lost all sympathy for both DC himself and the Government’s defence of hm. He cocked up big style at the start of this pandemic and when caught tried to bullshit his way out and showed no remorse. My personal view is the guy is ‘on the spectrum’ but that’s just opinion, either way, those around him (and above him) would have realised that it was wrong and he needed to be ‘punished’, even if it was a suspension or the like. You… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

A balanced view. All fair enough mate.


Evidence is in short supply. Defense News and The Telegraph ran stories in September, the former stated that Boeing had significantly increased the cost so the MOD was looking at reducing the order to just 3. The latter implies that it was partly cost but also because issues have arisen out of the contract being awarded with no competition, but that Boeing was looking at a solution which would mean an order of 4. What truth there is in any of this isn’t clear as both articles merely quote “defence sources”. Given the upcoming defence review my guess is that… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I agree Rob. It is all speculation as is. We chewed over it here when UKDJ also reported on it.


All sounds like chicken and egg to me did higher cost or lower order come first I wonder.


Here’s an old Boeing/RAAF video from 2008 that shows the manufacture of the RAAFs first E-7A:

From the beginning up to about the 3.40 minute mark it shows the manufacture of the ‘green’ 737-700NG airframe (nothing too exciting).

From the 3.40 min mark onwards, the video shows the green airframe being stripped down and rebuilt for conversion to an E-7A.


PS, turn the sound down, the music is pretty horrible to listen to!


where do they get the music from in these type of videos could be worse I guess it could be a North Korean military propaganda movie.

Robert Stevenson

Was it not the case the RAF’s E-3Ds need about £2-billion spent on them to bring them to rough parity with current US standard.

The no bid contract was because Boeing could deliver the aircraft quickly saving us spend that money on the temporary upgrades on the E-3D. Spending £1.51Bn we get 5 new aircraft.

Andrew Sparry

We’re only getting 3 now….


Is that confirmed? I just thought that was speculation of what could possibly be cut in the delayed defense review. (ie tanks etc…)

Daniele Mandelli

Nope. Just speculation like there was on QEC, like Tanks, like LPD, like everything else.

Graeme Chidgey

Are they going to be using Green 737-700ERs or 800s?


All 14 E-7A aircraft currently in service (6 x Australia, 4 x South Korea and 4 x Turkey) all use the -700 airframe.

The UK airframes will also be -700, two used and three new build.

Changing the airframe from -700 to -800 would require a whole new bucket of money for R&D and recertification, no need to reinvent the wheel, it works well as it is.


So is it 5? 3? 1?


The e3 had 23 years of service, and we look to be adding modern tech to a previous generation of aircraft, I.e. UAV is the next revolution in military affairs. Would a mother ship swarm be more effective, or 24/7 autonomous operation that a UAV could achieve at a low cost? What’s the benefit of having the tech on an airliner, when UAV is an option? You then avoid the risk like nimrod had with human losses, less wear to aircraft and impact to operators. Is it that the best tech needs the massive air frame anyway? Is there anything… Read more »


That’s an interesting question. A manned AEW platform has a number of real threats today, ranging from long range air to air missiles. Ground based SAM systems like the S400 and S500 have dedicated variants of their missile to target AEW aircraft. This means to operate safely they have top fly further back, thus reducing the range they can look into enemy airspace. But will UAVs be any better? The Western Nations haven’t really had an issues operating their reconnaissance or hunter-killer UAVs. When flying over Mali, Iraq etc there are no threats. However, if we compared the goings on… Read more »


Thanks for the very detailed reply. I agree with your view on satellites, they seem to be a easily defeated yet critical component, that is ripe for evolution, which I guess is where the x37 and more rapidly deployable and smaller satellites are solving. This evolution of capability is where I see alot of the spend not meeting the business criteria tests, or the goals of procurement. Resulting in number reduction but the value is the same, like how the standing army ratio was reduced after the first nuclear weapon as it more than equalled the conventional forces, or where… Read more »


What you are describing is called bi-static radar. This was the first form of radar and was used in the Chain Home system during WW2. The main advantage with the mothership if it’s based on an airliner like the 737, is that the antenna can be made bigger. Signal sensitivity is directly proportional to the cross sectional area of the antenna, i.e. the bigger the area the more chances a minute signal can be detected. The problem would be that the UAV transmitter would be some distance in front of the receiver aircraft. Therefore, the returned signal will be even… Read more »


Very interesting analysis. So essentially a massive ear hanging inside a stand-off blimp? Does altitude benefit the ability to pick up the signal? Would the UAV need a decent power system to achieve this transmitter role, and does this add cost over having those UAV being a swarm of ears instead, as surely it would limit their loiter? I was thinking along the lines of detecting that scenario of back scatter by better placement of the ears, through the UAV providing that function, as you see with radio telescopes like ALMA where the flexibility allows you to zoom by… Read more »