The first of the five E-7 Wedgetails purchased by the UK to replace the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning And Control aircraft will arrive in 2023.

Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, recently asked in a written Parliamentary question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the timescale is for the delivery of each E-7 Wedgetail aircraft.”

Jeremy Quin, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, replied:

“The current forecast for delivery of the first E-7 Wedgetail AEW Mk1 aircraft to the Royal Air Force is 2023, with the last expected in 2026. However, I am withholding the detailed delivery schedule as this would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our Armed Forces.”

Quin also added in a response to another question:

“The E-7 Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft is produced by modifying and militarising a Boeing 737 Next Generation airliner. As has been stated previously, the first two airframes to be inducted into the modification process are low-hours, previously-owned aircraft. In preparation for modification, Boeing will undertake a thorough overhaul of these airframes to ensure a standard form, fit and function across the whole fleet. This will enable all aircraft to be operated and maintained by the RAF in the same manner.”

Recently, Boeing has selected STS Aviation Services and its Birmingham site for the conversion work on the United Kingdom’s fleet of five Wedgetail aircraft.

The conversion work – turning commercial 737 Next Generation airliners into Wedgetails – will 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.

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Excellent news that the modifications will be carried out in the UK as I have a feeling the wedge tail will be the main player in the market for anyone looking to replace sentries. IE France, Saudi, Germanies nato aircraft. I can’t see the France and Germany looking to fund their own alternative in the future.


Well, they are only just thinking of replacing the Alantique with an Airbus developed airframe. So, who knows.


I still can’t figure why the UK did not use an off the shelf airbus airframe that would have been a fraction of the cost of refurbing a 50 year old nimrod. Especially when it could have been used for future sales to France, Spain, Italy etc. We can blame BAE for concealing what a cock up it was but the risks where plane to see from day 1 do the government had no excuse.


I am not sure the blame really lies with BAE on that one. As far as I know the issue was the Government changing the specifications over and over again. One story was that the first aircraft was being finished off when a spec change came in which required it to be stripped back down and re-engineered!


Airbus A319 (and A320) had been looked at many times. It was going to be pricey and Airbus military was very much in its early days. Oddly I’ve heard from people before that the best option may have actually been fully new build Nimrods. The original jigs, unfortunately, had long since rotted away in outside storage. By the time we’d done the engines, flight deck, mission systems, fuel system and a thousand other changes we actually weren’t far off a new aircraft anyway…and Nimrod was in many ways a perfect MPA, 4 buried engines, colossal range, massive bomb bay etc.… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

At the time Airbus was not really interested in supporting a competitive proposal or doing any risk reduction work. Airbus Commercial saw it as an unwanted distraction. Since then, of course, there have been many changes at Airbus, and Airbus Military is now firmly under Airbus Defence & Space. I see now that the whole A319 MPA concept has been relaunched and is being pushed by the company. Under this arrangement, Airbus Commercial would just supply the platform, like in the case of the MRTT (Voyager), with all the design, development and modification work being conducted by ADS.


Boeing Defence developed this capabilty for the RAAF. Do you think Boeing and the Australian government allow the UK to build it on an Airbus platform.

The RAAF E7 fleet is currently being upgraded by Boeing et al over 6 years. I hope the RAF also see these upgrades?

Keeping Wedgetail at the top of its game – Australian Defence Magazine

Cam Els

You seem confused. The Nimrod AEW that didn’t work WAS replaced by the “off the shelf” option in about 1990, that being the Boeing E3D. 30 years later we are going back to Boeing for a more modern but already proven AEW system.


I think I confused people with my post. I was referring to Nimrod MRA4 not the AEW that was also a waste of time.
Basically we never should have even considering refurbishing the aircraft and used a new commercial airframe from airbus and modified it for the maritime role. But as others have since posted back then airbus had no interest in the military market.


Airbus and Saab did kick off when we went straight to a direct purchase without placing the requirement as part of a competition. However both of their submissions did not meet our requirements. The Erieye was too short ranged and the Airbus hadn’t even got their proposal off the drawing board or integrated any radar with an airframe. Therefore making the E7 the only logical option currently available, hence why there was no competition.


Yeah Saabs offering does not have anywhere near the range the UK would require and I can’t see France having the money to develop their own if they will only order 3 or 4 of them.


I’m also assuming that the Wedgetail can hold more equipment and sensor operators, ect than the Erieye can.


Yes there are at least four frames that have been married to the Erieye radar system and they are all large business jet or small passenger commuter aircraft, such as the Saab 340 or Global 6000. The 737NG is much longer and wider, so more weight can be carried a further distance for a longer duration.

I am not knocking the Erieye, it is a great radar, but not as good as the Wedgetails.


A major reason to select the E-7 was the 5-eyes comms equipment that would not be allowed on Airbus or SAAB modles.


Even though we seem to be sorted for our orders won’t there be a shortage of airframes for significant future sales of this nature? That said I guess after the present crisis and assuming that Boeing finally gets around to sorting the newer models problems, plenty of second hand NGs will come onto the market for future adaptations if they are needed. Or are there other options based on new airframes?


Not trying to be a downer but even with the directional beam capability of the E7s radar, I’d be pretty uncomfortable being up in the sky in a huge EM radiating aircraft when systems such as this are coming online (substitute loitering AA munitions for the ground attack ones):

We’ve GOT to get going on unmanned variants of these mission types. Secure downlinks such as those used by the drone systems would allow ground based controllers to perform the mission (AI anybody?) without being exposed to a very high level of risk. JMHO.



The aircraft flying remotely is not the problem, it likely already can. The issue is liability in congested airspace. It took them long enough to get watch keeper approved to fly in civilian airspace and its a fraction the size of a wedge tail.

Not sure why so many operators need to remain on board, maybe its contingency in case they can’t transfer the data.


I’m fairly certain autonomous operations are not the problem, you’ve got a good point about operating in controlled airspace during peacetime. However, during a shooting match that wouldn’t matter. I’m also fairly certain that in a full scale peer conflict, a C2 asset such as an AWACS would be at the top of the enemy’s list to kill. Losing a manned version would mean not just the loss of an experienced aircrew, it would also mean the loss of 10-14 highly trained ABMs which would be even worse… Perhaps an extremely high altitude manned stealth design data linked with many… Read more »

John Clark

It’s a shame that a larger program of procurement couldn’t have been organised to replace the NATO E3 fleet at the same time, by 2026 deliveries could have continued to NATO and France.

A ‘considerable’ group saving could have been made, with joint training, logistics and maintenance taken into account across a combined fleet of 25 ish airframes.

James Joyce

The US won’t allow most NATO nations to know the capability of the E7 due to the classification.


Makes you wonder if the USAF is even going to reconstitute its E3 fleet or go to something else? Similar to what’s going to replace the E8 fleet. The service has realized that a new E8 would be too vulnerable to modern air defenses and long range missiles. Ditto for the E3 IMO.

A group buy for the E7 would make a lot of sense, but there isn’t a lot of sense in what’s going on anymore sooooooo….



It’s hard to say which way the US would go. They did show a lot of interest in Japans 767, but that re-uses the E3D radars, so there’s no real improvement except with the airframe. I am pretty certain they have all the in and outs on Wedgetail’s performance from Boeing. The 737 airframe is tried and “trusted” so there’s no real issues with that. It’s the radar, would they be sufficiently happy with the Northrop Grumman MESA system? Does it have their range requirements?


We’re really at a critical inflection point IMO. Technology has advanced so rapidly that pretty much every deployed weapons system on the planet is / will be obsolete in very short order. There’s been a once in a 100 years paradigm shift that we’d better wrap our heads around or face disaster if we try to fight the next major war with what we’ve currently got in the inventory. As usual, politics are greatly hindering this. The manufacturers of legacy systems and their allies in Congress are doing everything in their power to prevent the development and deployment of radical… Read more »


Mention the word “autonomous” or “unmanned” and now you’re fighting the Fighter Pilot Mafia”… Rather depressing really…



It’s interesting to the comments made by the US on this within their Air Force, some are for it some are against it. For us we are very much in favour of it due to the much smaller size of our “front line” aircraft. It’s of note that Janes reported this week that the FCAS program is back on track, with both French and UK minister reporting further progress. OK FCAS , i.e. Taranis is not designed as a loyal wingman but a strike aircraft. However, a lot of the technology that goes into it is cross compatible, especially the… Read more »


Yeah, I saw this a while back as it was linked with the Commandant of the USMC giving a lecture on their future disposition. he did a big piece on the vulnerability of a task force, movers and the taking of an opposed beach head. He still thinks there’s a place for the amphibious assault ship, i.e. the gator navy ships for their Harriers/F35s/V22s and choppers. But he was concerned about the survive-ability of the LPD which have to get close to the shore’s horizon before they can deploy LCACs, LSTs and MAVs. This is where he thought a greater… Read more »

Alabama boy

The USAF E3s have been kept up to date with huge investment over the years and have been kept in almost new condition compared to the UK E3Ds. So having started and almost completed the latest Block 41 upgrade of the mission system they have considerable life left in them. This is despite them having flown many more hours per airframe than the RAF E3Ds. The USAF will be fully aware of the E-7 capabilities and weaknesses over the years and have not shown any significant interest. They would find the smaller E-7 much more cramped than the E 3… Read more »

Cam Els

The NATO & US fleets are fully updated, unlike the UK aircraft, so are not yet up for replacement.


Really curious why they withholding the delivery details when they regularly release it for other platforms. What are they trying to hide. It’s a 3 year window so not insanely long, so not hiding that the deliveries will be backloaded. Curious

Supportive Bloke

Probably more about drawing a veil over capability holidays……now that things are getting aggressive and more shouty internationally capability holidays look like a bad idea.


The US had planned to to replace both the E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS (equivalent of the Raytheon Sentinel) with a single plane, the E10, built on the Boeing 767 platform. With the Sentinel set to retire soon, I wonder if a ground surveillance capability could be added to the Wedgetail?


The US trialled a ground and sea searching radar on a P8 MPA. Seeing as the wedgetail and Poseidon are based on the same airframe I’m sure that radar could be fitted to either. The question is whether the capability is still relevant and if the US will sell it to us.

Kevin Sullivan

Thank you for your prompt delivery. Thank You