Boeing will develop two new versions of its E-7 Wedgetail forward air surveillance and command aircraft specifically for the U.S. Air Force. Currently, only one variant of the aircraft is available, the E-7A.
A very vague contract
On March 1, Boeing announced that it has signed a contract with the US Air Force (USAF). Very little information is known because this is an undefinitized contract action. This implies that the terms of the contract, specifications or price are not yet agreed upon until the actual execution of the action, which in this case is the development of two new variants of the E-7. Two key pieces of information are known at this time:
- Boeing will have to develop two variants of its E-7 Wedgetail forward air lookout and command aircraft (AEW&C) specifically for the USAF.
- The contract value is $1.2 billion (or €1.13 billion).
Boeing's release clearly speaks of the open architecture of its Wedgetail. In fact, both variants may not be equipped with the MESA radar or other systems present on the current E-7As. However, the USAF E-7 computer-generated image released by Boeing (cover photo) clearly appears to resemble an E-7A Wedgtail.
The E-7A Wedgetail
The E-7A Wedgetail version is a Boeing 737-700 NG converted for forward airborne lookout and command operations. It features numerous sensors, including a powerful Northrop Grumman Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar. Located above the fuselage (10 meters long), this active antenna radar is much more advanced than previous generation radars (notably the radar of the E-3 Sentry, nicknamed AWACS). The MESA has a range of over 400 kilometers. Unlike older radars, operators can redirect the power of "useless" sensors (e.g., those aimed at friendly lines) to increase the energy input of other sensors and thus refine their range, identification capabilities,...
This aircraft was, in 2022, present in three air forces:
- The Royal Australian Air Force, 6 E-7A Wedgetail
- The South Korean Air Force (ROKAF), 4 E-7As, designated Peace Eye
- The Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri), 4 E-7As, designated E-7T Peace Eagle
In 2024, the Royal Air Force will be the fourth user of the E-7A, with the arrival of the first of the 3 aircraft ordered. They will be named locally as Wedgetail AEW1.
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