Following the government’s announcement of the $582.5 million upgrade of the Royal Australia Air Force’s (RAAF) E-7A Wedgetail aircraft yesterday, the prime contractor has revealed two of the six aircraft will be completely upgraded by 2019.
Under AIR 5077 Phase 5A, Boeing Defence Australia will lead the upgrade of the RAAF’s fleet of six Boeing-built E-7A Wedgetail aircraft in three releases over six years, with support from Boeing’s Airborne Surveillance Command and Control team in the US and a network of suppliers
Boeing said its first major upgrade for the 737 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) capability will provide critical interoperability upgrades to the Australian Defence Force.
"We’re leveraging over 40 years of AEW&C knowledge and investment, and a successful track record of maintaining and upgrading aircraft built based on Boeing’s successful 737 model for the RAAF," said Darren Edwards, Boeing Defence Australia’s vice president and managing director.
The aircraft and associated support systems will be upgraded with new advanced combat identification sensors, tactical data links, communications hardware and encryption system, and mission computing hardware and software upgrades.
"We are on track to deliver the first release of upgrades to all six aircraft in early 2018, with the first aircraft completing flight testing two months ahead of the schedule; a demonstration of the strength and success of the partnership between Boeing and the Commonwealth of Australia on this mission-critical platform," said Edwards.
Two aircraft will receive the full suite of first release Phase 5A upgrades by early 2019, which includes target identification, mission computing upgrades and increased situation awareness through larger visual monitor displays.
The remaining fleet will receive integrated IP chat communications upgrades into mission computing, data link upgrades, a new wide-band satellite system and dual display upgrades by 2022.
Minister for Defence Marise Payne said the new upgrades will help Australia and its allies in crucial missions.
"The upgrades are an important step in maintaining a potent Australia air combat force and will ensure continued interoperability with Australian allies, including the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members,’" Minister Payne said.
"The Wedgetail is currently deployed to the Middle East region as part of our contribution to the fight against Daesh. It is a mobile radar and battle space management system that is keeping the international coalition one step ahead of the enemy."