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Wedgetail E-7A aircraft winging its way home after Ukraine support mission

A Royal Australian Air Force ground support technician prepares an E-7A Wedgetail for a flight during Operation Kudu in Germany, March 2024. Photo: CPL Nicole Dorrett

A Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail aircraft is headed back home after conducting a six-month deployment in Europe.

A Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail aircraft is headed back home after conducting a six-month deployment in Europe.

The E-7A aircraft, deployed under Operation Kudu, supported the multinational effort to provide early warning for potential threats from Russia outside of Ukraine.

The E-7A Wedgetail contingent flew more than 250 hours with missions averaging five hours in the air while up to 100 Australian Defence Force personnel were deployed to Ramstein Air Base in Germany to support the mission.

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Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, applauded the ADF personnel’s work supporting the protection of a vital gateway of international humanitarian and military assistance into Ukraine.

“The deployment was a tangible demonstration of Australia’s commitment to supporting our partners in upholding the global rules-based order,” LTGEN Bilton said.

Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Robert Chipman, said the E-7A Wedgetail was one of the most advanced airborne early warning systems in the world and was well-suited to the task of providing support to the vital gateway.

“I commend our people on their hard work and commitment, channelling our ethos of being a ready, resilient, and resourceful force,” AIRMSHL Chipman said.

“I wish all our returning personnel a safe journey home and an enjoyable time reconnecting with family and friends.”

Australia has previously announced an expansion of training support for Ukraine’s armed forces under Operation Kudu this year.

Australia’s role will be expanded to include a junior leadership training program, focusing on areas such as foundation warfighting skills, including urban and trench warfare, combat first aid, explosive hazard awareness and marksmanship, according to Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles on 14 December 2023.

The number of Australian Defence Force members deployed on each rotation to Operation Kudu will also increase to 90 over the next 12 months. ADF personnel have helped train more than 1,200 recruits since January 2023 as part of the UK-led and based multinational training mission to support Ukraine’s national defence.

Australia has previously donated more than $910 million in overall assistance to Ukraine in monetary terms, including $730 million in military support.

Earlier this week, Russian defence manufacturing group Kalashnikov Concern announced it would showcase the new SKAT 350 M unmanned aerial vehicle for the first time in St Petersburg following successful weapons testing in Ukraine.

The company, retained by state-owned Rostec Corporation, is expected to showcase the new 3.2 metre-wingspan optical and infrared surveillance drone at Expotechnoguard from 3 to 5 April.

“The SKAT 350 M is effectively used by units of the Russian Guard in the Northern Military District zone,” a Rostec statement said (translated).

“In March, special forces of the Russian Guard … (using the SKAT UAV) ensured the defeat of the RM-70 Vampire MLRS (multiple rocket launcher system) of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which, being in the Kharkov region, was preparing to shell Belgorod.

“The coordinates of the enemy MLRS were promptly transferred to the Russian Ministry of Defense. As a result of the missile strike, the installation received critical damage and was disabled; the crew was partially destroyed.”

Kalashnikov Concern JSC president Alan Lushnikov said the company is exploring every opportunity to maintain contacts with the Russian military, receive new orders, and offer prompt and effective solutions.

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