It has been reported that the U.S. Air Force is expected to purchase the E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft at some point next year.

BreadkingDefense report here that Boeing expects the US Air Force to announce plans to purchase its E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft in 2022.

“I’m very confident that the Air Force is choosing the E-7 to replace its E-3 fleet,” Mike Manazir, Boeing’s vice president for defence business development, was quoted by Valerie Insinna during a news conference ahead of the Dubai Airshow.

He added:

“I believe they’ll be announcing sometime in 2022 that they’re going to move forward on the E-7.”

Boeing, the manufacturers, say that the E-7 Wedgetail is one of the world’s most advanced, capable and reliable Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) platforms, “having proven itself in operations around the world”.

The aircraft is designed to track multiple airborne and maritime targets simultaneously. It can provide situational awareness and direct other assets such as fighter jets and warships.

Australia, South Korea and Turkey already operate the aircraft. The Uk has ordered some. The UK’s E-7 Wedgetail aircraft (the order has been cut from five to three) is expected to be in service with the Royal Air Force in 2023.

UK E-7 timeline:

  • March 2019: UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced its selection of the Boeing E-7 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft for the RAF.
  • Early 2020: The first two 737 NG aircraft set to become RAF Wedgetails start the early stages of conversion in the United States.
  • May 2020: STS Aviation Services in Birmingham named as key Wedgetail supplier to carry out the modification work, creating more than 100 highly skilled jobs: 90 with STS and 30 more with Boeing.
  • May 2020: Leonardo and Thales UK will develop the aircraft’s defensive aids system, adding a UK designed and built technology to the fleet.
  • November 2020: Fuselage sections for first RAF E-7 Wedgetail aircraft arrive at conversion site in Birmingham.
  • January 2021: The first aircraft to become a Wedgetail lands at Birmingham Airport.
  • September 2021: The second aircraft to become a Wedgetail lands at Birmingham Airport. It joins the first aircraft to undergo conversion with Boeing’s supply chain partner STS Aviation.
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Quentin D63
Quentin D63
8 days ago

This seems to be a big vote of confidence in this plane and it’s capabilities. Is there now a possibility of the RAF ordering back an additional 2 if the price comes down with the USAF order?

Sooty
Sooty
8 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

One can only hope.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
8 days ago
Reply to  Sooty

Plus some extra P8s… It’s all been said here before.

John Hartley
John Hartley
8 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Plus, the USN is said to be using 3x P-8 in the SIGINT/ELINT role. A replacement for Rivet Joint in USAF/RAF service perhaps?

Goldilocks
Goldilocks
8 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Rivet Joint will operate to 2035, by then there will probably a dedicated replacement

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 days ago
Reply to  Goldilocks

Yeah cause the USAF will need to replace their RC-135S Cobra Ball, RC-135U Combat Sent, RC-135V/W Rivet Joints by then as the spare parts are running out for the airframe

Mike M.
Mike M.
5 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

The USN is working toward using the MQ-4 Triton in that role. The systems are still in testing.

Jon
Jon
7 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Although that’s been the mood music coming from the US for some time, this story is that a Boeing executive says he’s “confident” the USAF will buy Boeing. If it was a done deal, the USAF would be announcing it. It needs to go in the 2023 budget (proposed around April/May I think) and be okayed by Congress, who knows when. There’s still some way to go before it turns into an actual order.

Alabama Boy
Alabama Boy
8 days ago

It will be interesting to see if changes are required to meet USAF requirements. I suspect it depends on the USAF strategy, is it just a gap filler between E3 and the unspecified integrated space based system which the USAF have previously identified as an E3 replacement long term? In which case I could see them ordering about 8 -10 to replace some of the older E3Bs. If its a more long term replacement with a 20 year + service life it could be bought in two tranches – a first batch of 15 -20 to replace the E3Bs in… Read more »

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 days ago
Reply to  Alabama Boy

Yeah maybe it will get the UK to take up the 3 options they have for Wedgetails

Alabama Boy
Alabama Boy
8 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

Given the many compromises in the RAF inventory related to the number of fighters, the totally unknown status of Tempest as a credible replacement for the Typhoon in the required timescales and ongoing doubts about the F35 purchases for the RAF once the carriers have a credible force, I don’t believe there is a snowballs chance in Hell that the RAF seniors (traditionally fast jest pilots) will buy anymore E7s. Allowing the E3D to be scrapped before a replacement is ready to take over and believing that 3 is enough says to me that that the seniors don’t see a… Read more »

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 days ago
Reply to  Alabama Boy

Frankly 3 E-7A is insufficient all 6 E-7A Wedgetails is what we need

Steve R
Steve R
8 days ago
Reply to  Alabama Boy

I think they’re putting their eggs into the proposed AEW variant of the Vixen drone.

The Royal Navy are aiming to get an AEW drone, Vixen, to launch from the QE and PoW. If and when this happens then chances are either the RAF will buy some to augment the E7 numbers, or there will be a joint pool of them to be used by the RAF/FAA.

Daveyb
Daveyb
8 days ago
Reply to  Steve R

That’s a very big ask and shoes to fill for a carrier UAV, that meets the MoD’s catapult and arrested landing RFI spec. The E7’s Multipurpose Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) is an absolute beast in both performance and size. For the Vixen to mount a radar that is comparable, the Vixen will have to be blooming huge and it will need to generate a lot of electrical power to feed it. Detection range has a lot to do with the size (area) of the antenna, which is directly proportional to the radar’s operating wavelength; though you can scale it back… Read more »

Chris
Chris
7 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

450km detectionrange for the Erieye AESA GaN radar (for a fighter-sized target)

Daveyb
Daveyb
6 days ago
Reply to  Chris

That’s a lot further than the “published” range Saab generally promotes, it’s also further than the published range of the Wedgetail, which is a significantly more powerful radar. However, it may also be true! As radar manufacturers rarely divulge any specific performance figures. They usually say a fighter sized target, but don’t normally specify the target’s radar cross section (RCS). For example the Mig-29 has been attributed with a RCS ranging from 4m2 to 7m2 depending on whether it has a clean wing configuration or with hardpoints and weapons fitted. The higher RCS also depends on what type of weapons… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
7 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

“The MESA doesn’t use a true transmitter-receiver module (TRM) that other active electronically scanned (AESA) radars use. But more of a form of a giant circuit board that incorporates a number of TRMs on it. I’m still unclear why Northrop Grumman did it this way, as if one part of the board is broken, you have replace the whole thing rather than a singular TRM?“

Matched TRM’s operating at a consistent temperature?

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 days ago

Hmm clearly the USAF have realised their fleet of 24 E-3G Sentry AWACS are wearing out and need replacing

Daveyb
Daveyb
8 days ago

Bit of a no brainer really. There isn’t anything else available that’s immediately available off the shelf, unless you count the E2D Hawkeye, that matches its capability.

I am a bit surprised that the US manufacturers haven’t got a “pure” US based platform in development.

Alabama Boy
Alabama Boy
7 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

System Development costs money and unless the government invests no US manufacturer will invest the millions needed for the sake of it. This is particularly true when another solution (integrated spaced based solution) appeared to be the favoured route for the E3 replacement. The USAF have just run out of time and their E3s have worn out with constant use. The USAF E3s are older than the RAFs aircraft and have been in constant use throughout that time and have flown far more hours including AAR hours which imposes more fatigue on the airframe. You can invest in small fleets… Read more »

David Barry
David Barry
8 days ago

Is @daniellemandelli OK? He hasn’t commented today, has he?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
8 days ago

So we are buying 3 aircraft to replace the 7 E-3D Sentrys that we fielded from the late 80s.
Once the first flush of youth has faded, one aircraft will surely be AOG for one reason or another. Can we meet all global remits with 2 aircraft?

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
8 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

That’s would depend what are global commitments are. I would say no. 1 aircraft airborne, 1 back at base. 1 on foreign soils. Unless they are going to run it 24/7 like a commercial airliner. Will require multiple crews for each aircraft.
I don’t know of any particular reason they can’t be run hard like a commercial 737. But I am prepared to be educated on such matters.
I would imagine anything will be a step up from the old E-3 sentry in terms of availability of the whole fleet

Alabama Boy
Alabama Boy
7 days ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Aircraft availability is only as good as the investment you put in to keep them flying. Civilian operators invest in their aircraft at purchase and by regulation have to keep them serviceable which is needed for them to make money. Military aircraft which carry sophisticated sensors, system processors and displays and communication and datalinks are far more complicated and do not benefit from the scale of replication which a modern airliner carries. Flying military aircraft has to have an objective (a mission , training or crew currency) and those are not as routine as an airline schedule. Preserving airframe hours… Read more »

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
6 days ago

Still cant believe the RAF will only have 3 AWACS when E7 wedgetail enters service. Juat crazy low numbers. Zero reserve, zero attrition allowed. No ability to take aircraft out of service for refurbishment or repair.
Just terrible mess isnt is?
If as a country we can afford to spend £400 billion on furlough scheme. Essentially paying people not to work then we can and should fund at least 9 E3 wedgetails.
If you look back at just how much our armed forces have been cut from 1990 vs now. Its shocking.

PragmaticScot
PragmaticScot
6 days ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Except furlough cost £68.5 Billion, minor detail but still worth noting.

Steven McColm
Steven McColm
8 minutes ago

I don’t think three aircraft will be enough. It’s a pity that the BAe Nimrod was retired too early as it could have been an ideal platform for the Wedgetail or the Airbus A400M Atlas. I doubt that the Atlas will be used more like the Dassault Atlantique or the Lockheed Martin P-3 AEW.

Steven McColm
Steven McColm
4 minutes ago

Time to refurbish the Avro Shackleton AEW. 2, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.