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US Air Force hits turbulence on Boeing E-7 acquisition negotiations

Artist's impression of the Boeing E-7/E-7A Wedgetail in UK Royal Air Force colours. The USAF's E-7 version is largely based off the UK's version. (Boeing)

The US Air Force (USAF) is “having a hard time getting a price agreement with Boeing” on purchasing E-7 Wedgetails, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall told reporters on 13 February.

The service intends to purchase 26 E-7s through 2032 to replace the Boeing E-3 as its sole airborne early warning aircraft type. Two E-7s are on contract.

Speaking separately, USAF Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Andrew Hunter told reporters, “The negotiation that's currently ongoing is on the prototyping piece, which is two aircraft, and some of the development work associated with taking the E-7 platform and optimising it for [the] air force mission set.”

“The big surprise there was the unexpected amount and degree of non-recurring engineering required to meet the requirements of the air force, which we thought was very, very close to what the UK is currently preparing” for its E-7 fleet, Hunter added.

“The discussions have been challenging,” he said. “We're trying to understand the specificity of what's implied in the Boeing proposal, to understand what we really need, what maybe is unnecessary, what can be deferred, and what of it is truly essential. We've narrowed down to a small, discrete set of issues [to] work with, but it's still under negotiation.”

Hunter declined to elaborate on what engineering issues remain outstanding.

“We're working through those challenges together to get to the right answer. It would be nice to be able to turn the wheel a little faster when it comes to the proposal process,” Hunter said.

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