The Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) planned procurement of five Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) is to be cut, the UK Defence Command Paper...
The Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) planned procurement of five Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) is to be cut, the UK Defence Command Paper disclosed on 22 March.
An artist’s impression of the E-7A Wedgetail AEW1 in UK service. A planned procurement of five such platforms has now been reduced to just three. (Crown Copyright)
According to the paper, the five 737-based AEW&C platforms that were announced in March 2019 as replacements for the Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW1s that have been in service since 1991 has now been shaved back to just three. This announcement was coupled with the early retirement of the Sentry later in 2021.
“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 paper said.
It had previously been reported that this cut was to be made due to an increase in the contract costs from GBP1.98 billion (USD2.74 billion) to GBP2.1 billion, although this was not confirmed in the paper. The move to curtail the Wedgetail buy will effectively limit the RAF’s AEW&C fleet to just one operational platform at a time (under the ‘rule of thirds’, typically in any aircraft fleet a third of the aircraft are used for training, a third are in maintenance, and a third are used for operations).