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Preparations ramp up for construction of first two Royal Air Force E-7 Wedgetails

Royal Air Force E-7 Wedgetail
Artist's impression of a Royal Air Force E-7 Wedgetail. Photo: UK MoD

Fuselage sections for the first two E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Mk1 aircraft for the Royal Air Force (RAF) have arrived to the United Kingdom and are on site at STS Aviation Services in Birmingham.

Parts and tooling continue to arrive weekly to the Birmingham hangar in preparation for work on the first two aircraft in January.

Staffing is ramping up, with 60 hired by STS Aviation already and more than half of the Boeing staff are on site now.

According to Boeing, the Wedgetail program also successfully completed two critical reviews with the UK Ministry of Defense in late October.

“The arrival of the first fuselage sections at STS Aviation in Birmingham is a significant milestone for the E-7 Wedgetail program and an exciting opportunity for the UK as we begin the modification of these aircraft into a world-class airborne command and control capability,” said Air Commodore Richard Barrow, MOD senior responsible owner for the E-7 Wedgetail program.

Section 46 is the part of the fuselage where the aircraft’s Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar will be installed. Later this month the first Section 46 will begin preparation for inclusion into a 737 next generation airliner.

Besides STS Aviation in Birmingham, Leonardo will deliver an integrated defensive aids system to the fleet from its operation in Luton. Thales UK, under a subcontract from Leonardo, will provide its Elix-IR threat warning system from its facility in Reading, and Vicon XF intelligent countermeasures dispensing system from its facilities at Bury St. Edmunds and Glasgow. Northrop Grumman will deliver the MESA radar.

With the E-7 Wedgetail, the RAF will join an airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) fleet of 14 aircraft in operation around the world with the, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force and Turkish Air Force.

The UK is buying five E-7 Wedgetail aircraft under a $1.98 billion contract from March 2019. The E-7 fleet will replace the current E-3D Sentry aircraft.