The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is in discussion with Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force regarding the potential purchase of E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft to replace its current Sentry fleet.
Speaking ahead of the meeting of defence ministers in NATO, UK defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, called the Wedgetail the stand-out performer in UK pursuit of a new battlespace surveillance aircraft and that its potential procurement represented an opportunity for increased defence cooperation and collaboration with Australia.
“Our future with Australia will already see us operate the same maritime patrol aircraft, world-class Type 26 warships and supersonic F-35 jets,” Williamson said. “Wedgetail may join that formidable armoury and help us work together to take on the global threats that we both face.”
The Wedgetail uses a standard Boeing 737 airliner modified to carry a sophisticated Northrop Grumman active electronically-scanned radar and can cover four million square kilometres over a single 10-hour period. If selected, it would replace the E-3D Sentry, which entered service in 1992.
Australia’s defence minister, Christopher Pyne, said that a deal would further deepen Australia’s relationship with the United Kingdom and was an endorsement of a crucial part of Australia’s air combat capability.
“The Wedgetail is a great Australian success story, designed for the Royal Australian Air Force with investment by the Australian government and significant contribution by Australian industry, it is a highly advanced world-best aircraft,” Pyne said.
“Widely recognised as the most advanced aircraft of its type in the western world, the Wedgetail provides state-of-the-art airborne surveillance, communications and battle management systems.”
Defence industry minister Steven Ciobo said that a UK procurement would add to the global fleet of Wedgetails – already in service with Australian, Turkish and South Korean defence forces – which can be supported and sustained by Australian industry and create hundreds of local jobs.
“Australian industry, including the more than 200 Australian companies that have contributed to our own Wedgetail acquisition and sustainment, stands to benefit from what could become one of Australia’s most significant defence exports,” Ciobo said.
“This is yet another great example of the confidence in Australia’s defence industry being shown by Australia’s international allies.”