Home Air US Air Force picks E-7 Wedgetail as AWACS successor

US Air Force picks E-7 Wedgetail as AWACS successor

RAAF E-7 Wedgetail from 2 Squadron, RAAF Amberly
A Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft lands at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, during the Red Flag 20-1 exercise. Photo: US Air Force

The US Air Force has selected Boeing’s E-7 Wedgetail as a replacement for a portion of the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) fleet.

The service revealed its choice after releasing a request for information in February this year.

“The Boeing 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,” the air force said.

According to the service, the contract award is planned in fiscal year 2023 with a rapid prototype aircraft planned for delivery in FY27.

The FY23 president’s budget request includes $227 million in research, development, test and evaluation funds starting in FY23 for the program.

The notional schedule plans for a second rapid prototype aircraft funded in FY24, and a production decision in FY25 to continue fielding aircraft. The air force noted it would be receiving prototype aircraft despite the E-7 being an operational platform in service with the Australian Air Force. This could indicate that the US Air Force plans to integrate new capabilities into the platform or to bring the aircraft to US Air Force “configuration standards and mandates.”

The FY23 PB proposes a partial divestment of the E-3 AWACS fleet, 15 of 31 aircraft, and redirects funding to procure and field its replacement.

The E-7A Wedgetail is based on a Boeing 737-700 series aircraft, with the addition of a Northrop Grumman Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar, and 10 mission crew consoles which can track airborne and maritime targets simultaneously. The aircraft combines long-range surveillance radar, secondary radar and tactical/strategic voice and data communications systems.