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UK signs for E-7 AEW&C aircraft

22 March 2019
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An artist's impression of how the E-7 AEW&C aircraft will appear in UK service. The RAF is acquiring five such aircraft to replace its current E-3D Sentry platforms. Source: Crown Copyright

The UK has signed for five Boeing E-7 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft for USD1.98 billion, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 22 March.

The E-7 (also known as the E-737) aircraft are being procured to replace the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) six Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW1 aircraft that have fallen behind the US Air Force (USAF's) Block 40/45 upgrade path and are becoming increasingly unserviceable.

While the MoD did not disclose exactly when deliveries would take place, it did say it would be during the early 2020s. When they arrive, the E-7s will likely join the rest of the RAF's intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) force at Waddington in Lincolnshire.

Based on the 737 airliner, which is also the basis for the P-8A Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft that the RAF will begin receiving later this year, the E-7 is already in service with Australia as the Wedgetail (six), South Korea as the Peace Eye (four), and Turkey as the Peace Eagle (four). The MoD has not disclosed what name the UK aircraft might receive.

Unlike the mechanically-scanned radar of the E-3D Sentry, the E-737 AEW&C is built around a multirole electronically scanned array (MESA) radar that provides a 360° coverage at ranges in excess of 322 km for aerial targets and 241 km for patrol boat-sized surface contacts (these ranges can be significantly increased if the radar's power is focused in a particular direction, rather than applied in a general sweep). The Northrop Grumman MESA affords the E-7 an area coverage of 4 million sq km, with the aircraft having an endurance of 10 hours.

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