Australia wants to engage with UK on Wedgetail

02 October 2018

Australia sees an opportunity to collaborate with the UK if the Royal Air Force acquires Boeing’s E-737 airborne early warning and control aircraft (pictured). Source: Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

Australia has identified opportunities to engage with the United Kingdom in the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) programme to replace its Boeing E-3D Sentry airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft.

Australia's Minister for Defence, Christopher Pyne, said on 3 October that the RAF's reported move to begin talks with Boeing over a potential acquisition of the Boeing E-737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft could lead to opportunities to "further deepen Australia's relationship with the United Kingdom".

The Boeing E-737 is currently in service with Australia (where it is known as the E-7A Wedgetail), South Korea (Peace Eye), and Turkey (Peace Eagle). The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operates six Wedgetail aircraft, with the aircraft achieving final operational capability (FOC) in May 2015.

Pyne said, "The Wedgetail is a great Australian success story, designed for the Royal Australian Air Force with investment by the Australian government and significant contribution by Australian industry."

Minister for Defence Industry Steve Ciobo said that Australia's experience in operating the Wedgetail presents an opportunity to work closely with the UK through "co-operative development and industry collaboration".

He added, "Australian industry, including the more than 200 Australian companies that have contributed to our own Wedgetail acquisition and sustainment [project], stands to benefit from what could become one of Australia's most significant defence exports."

Pyne said that Australia and the UK are also looking to expand defence industrial collaboration through their joint defence industry forum, the third iteration of which was held in July this year.

Also in July, UK-headquartered BAE Systems was selected to partner Australian industry in building a fleet of nine Hunter-class frigates for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) under the AUD35 billion (USD26 billion) Sea 5000 project. The ships are a variant of BAE Systems' Type 26 frigate design, which the company is also building for the UK Royal Navy (RN).

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