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USAF AWACS visit provides Wedgetail training and spruik opportunity

Royal Australia Air Force E-7A Wedgetail crews and their US Air Force E-3 Sentry counterparts have taken the rare opportunity for close training and tour of the AWACS platforms on Australian soil.

The USAF 552nd ACW from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma was visiting RAAF Base Williamtown as part of scheduled training and familiarisation activities with RAAF Number 2 Squadron and Number 42 Wing.

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The joint presence provided a visual representation of the partnership and interoperability between both Air Forces when the USAF E-3 Sentry positioned on the flight-line next to a RAAF E-7A Wedgetail on 10 Sep 19,

Assistant Director of Operations - USAF 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron, and Mission Crew Commander for the joint-operation, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Doyle, said the visit delivered important training outcomes.

"This trip allowed us to integrate with the RAAF, while we were concerned about limitations due to different operating procedures, the flight went better than expected and provided a great opportunity to build on partnership and international training," LTCOL Doyle explained. 

While the E-7A and E-3 are similar aircraft in that crew positions are almost identical, the Wedgetail has a much smaller crew size with the aircrew being able to move to different positions on board.

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Officer Commanding Number 42 Wing, Group Captain Hinton Tayloe said the activity ensured personnel were operationally ready.

"The aim of the joint flying mission was to develop skills in a training environment to ensure both forces are better prepared in the modern battlespace. I would like to congratulate all personnel involved as it was a team effort that delivered important training objectives and achieved highly successful mission outcomes with our USAF counterparts," GPCAPT Tayloe said.

Importantly, the visit and associated training activity provided the opportunity for personnel to come together and share knowledge and experiences fostering the close and enduring partnership between service men and women as coalition partners in service.

The E-7A Wedgetail provides Australia with one of the most advanced air battlespace management capabilities in the world. The E-7A Wedgetail has participated in Exercise Bersama Lima, Cope North, Red Flag and Pitch Black, with units currently deployed on Operation OKRA.

The 737 AEW&C system encompasses both the Boeing 737-700 aircraft platform and a variety of aircraft control and advanced radar systems. Consisting of components created by Boeing and Northrop Grumman, the 737 AEW&C represents the standard for future airborne early warning systems.

The E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C functions include:

  • A steerable beam, L-band, electronically scanned array that provides optimal performance in range, tracking and accuracy;
  • Radar that can track airborne and maritime targets simultaneously;
  • Assistance to the mission crew in directing the control of high-performance fighter aircraft while continuously scanning the operational area;
  • A "top hat" portion that provides a practical solution for fore and aft coverage while maintaining the low drag profile of the dorsal array system – enabling the MESA system to be installed on the mid-size 737-700 platform without significant impact to aircraft performance;
  • An integrated identification friend or foe (IFF) function that shares the primary radar arrays to reduce weight, improve reliability and simplify target correlation; and
  • Advanced open-system architecture with standards-based design for cost-effective integration and add-on flexibility.

This announcement builds on a growing military capability and industrial relationship between the UK and Australia, after the Australian government selected the British Type 26 design for its future frigate.

Australia’s experience in operating the Wedgetail presents a significant opportunity to work closely with the UK through co-operative development and industry collaboration.

The visit coincides with the recent UK decision to acquire a fleet of five E-7A Wedgetail aircraft earlier this year and precedes another attempt by the US Air Force to kickstart its own airborne early warning and control system (AWACS) recapitalisation, which aims to see the Boeing 707-based E-3 Sentry replaced following the failure of the E-10 MC2A program.  

Based at RAAF Base Williamtown, Australia's six E-7A Wedgetails significantly improve the effectiveness of the ADF. They are capable of communicating with other aircraft and providing air control from the sky, and can cover 4 million square kilometres during a single 10-hour mission.

USAF AWACS visit provides Wedgetail training and spruik opportunity
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