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UK Wedgetail progresses with first mating of MESA to airframe

The MESA radar being lowered into position on the spine of the 737 NG airframe that will become the first of three E-7A Wedgetail AEW1 aircraft for the UK Royal Air Force. (Boeing)

Construction of the first Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft for the UK has progressed with the mating of the Northrop Grumman Multirole Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar with the 737 Next-Generation (NG) airframe of the first aircraft.

Boeing announced the event on 4 November, saying it represented a major milestone for the first of three Wedgetail aircraft earmarked for the Royal Air Force (RAF).

β€œThe installation of the first MESA sensor […] is a significant milestone for the UK E-7 Wedgetail programme, and brings us another step closer to providing a new command-and-control capability for the RAF,” Ian Vett, director of the UK E-7 Programme, Boeing, was quoted as saying.

The work at STS Aviation Services' Birmingham plant in the UK followed ground-based testing of the sensor at Northrop Grumman's Linthicum facility in the US state of Maryland. All three 737 NG airframes are with STS Aviation Services for conversion to the E-7A configuration.

The RAF is to receive the first of three E-7A Wedgetail AEW1 aircraft in 2024, following the retirement of the Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW1 in 2021. The type will be operated out of RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, where it will serve alongside the 737-derived Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft.

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