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NATO mulls E-7 Wedgetail for initial future surveillance capability

NATO is considering the eventual procurement of Boeing's E-7 Wedgetail aircraft to gain an IOC for its Alliance Future Surveillance and Control capability. (Boeing)

NATO will probably lean towards an eventual procurement of Boeing's E-7 Wedgetail aircraft to gain an initial operating capability (IOC) for its planned multidomain Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC) capability, according to allied officials. AFSC is supposed to replace NATO's ageing fleet of Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACSs) by 2035.

However, questions remain about AFSC's eventual architecture, its deadline for achieving full capability, and how NATO would use the Wedgetail IOC fleet: building on it as the base or striving for something else?

AFSC's design principle aims for a multidomain, system-of-systems open architecture of air, ground, and space assets seamlessly exchanging and analysing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data.

“Some of us are concerned that AFSC could pose a risk of turning into another endless ACCS [Air Command and Control System] saga,” one allied diplomat said on 15 February, referring to NATO's ACCS.

Awarded to ThalesRaytheonSystems in 1999, ACCS has suffered major design issues and big cost overruns over its 22-year history and has still not reached all its technological end goals.

“We can't see that kind of delay again on such a major programme, one that will be hugely critical in our changed security environment,” said the diplomat. “But then you get to this system-of-systems architecture thing, and we really don't know what shape it will actually take.” NATO is currently reviewing various design concepts for the capability.

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