The US Air Force (USAF) has decided to replace part of the E-3 Sentry AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft fleet with Boeing E-7 Wedgetail.
The announcement was made by the Department of the Air Force on Tuesday, justifying that the E-7 is “the only platform capable of meeting the requirements for the Defense Department’s tactical battle management, command and control and moving target indication capabilities within the timeframe needed to replace the aging E-3.”
However, the first E-7 Wedgetail, based on the 737-700 jetliner, is not expected to be delivered until the FY27. A contract with Boeing will be included in the 2023 President’s Budget, with an allocation of $227 million intended for the USAF research, development, testing and evaluation program.
A second application must be made in fiscal 2024 and the production decision, the following year, explains the Air Force statement.
At the same time, the USAF intends to decommission 15 of the 31 four-engine E-3 Sentry aircraft, based on the Boeing 707 and which have been in service for more than 40 years.
Developed at the request of Australia, the E-7 Wedgetail is equipped with a fixed AESA radar antenna supplied by Northrop Grumman on top of the fuselage. The equipment can monitor the airspace in 360º in a synthetic way, unlike the radar mounted on a rotating disk of the Sentry.
In addition to Australia, the United Kingdom will also be the operator of the new airborne early warning aircraft. The country retired its E-3s in 2021 and passed them on to Chile.
The USAF, however, has not stipulated how many E-7s it should order.