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USAF selects the E-7 Wedgetail to replace its ageing AWACS fleet

The E-7 was developed for the Australian Defence Force. Boeing has said that India, Japan, and Qatar have shown interest in the E-7. (Boeing)

The US Air Force (USAF) announced on 26 April that it had selected the Boeing E-7 Wedgetail to replace its Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

The USAF plans to award a contract in fiscal year 2023 and requested USD227 million in research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) funds for the programme starting in its FY 2023 budget. The service said the money would “support the acquisition of a rapid prototype aircraft planned to [be] delivered in FY [20]27”.

USAF Secretary Frank Kendall, when asked at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on 27 April how the service might speed up that process given the aircraft is in production, said that while he would like to accelerate deliveries of the E-7 “we're going to have to make some changes to the aircraft to meet our requirements”.

“The Boeing E-7 is the only platform capable of meeting the requirements for the defence department's tactical battle management, command-and-control and moving target indication capabilities within the timeframe needed to replace the ageing E-3,” the air force said.

The USAF's FY 2023 budget request also lays out the divestment of its AWACS fleet, which has been in service for nearly 45 years. It plans to divest 15 of its 31 E-3 aircraft, which are based on the 707 airframe, and use the funding on procuring and fielding the E-7.

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