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RAF defends buying five Wedgetail radars for three aircraft

The first MESA radar being installed on Boeing 737 NG airframe undergoing modification into the E-7A Wedgetail for the UK Royal Air Force in November 2022. Despite cutting its planned procurement to three aircraft, the MoD has opted to retain its purchase of five radar systems, which it will now use for spares. (Boeing)

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has defended its decision to continue with the purchase of five radar sets for its Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning Mk1 (AEW1) programme, despite the procurement having been reduced to three aircraft.

Addressing the House of Commons Defence Committee (HCDC) on 17 May, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Designate Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton said that the decision not to similarly trim the acquisition of the five Northrop Grumman Multirole Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar sets has saved the Ministry of Defence (MoD) from having to buy spares. This is on top of savings made with the airframe reduction announced in the Defence Command Paper of 2021, he added.

โ€œThe additional two radars we have decided to keep, because it allowed us to reduce the spares purchase by about GBP100 million (USD124 million). If we had bought all five aircraft, we would had to have bought some spares on top of the five radars to sustain them. The cost of each radar is a sensitive figure, but it was a good return on investment to buy all five,โ€ ACM Knighton said at the HCDC hearing, which was titled โ€˜Are air force gaps leaving UK exposed?'.

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