In this article:
Six new E-7A Wedgetail aircraft for NATO
NATO has selected its next generation command and control aircraft as the Alliance’s existing Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) fleet nears retirement. Production of the six new Boeing’s E-7A Wedgetail aircraft is set to begin in the coming years, with the first aircraft expected to be ready for operational duty by 2031. A consortium of Allies gave their approval to the project, one of NATO’s biggest-ever capability purchases, this month.
“Surveillance and control aircraft are crucial for NATO’s collective defence and I welcome Allies’ commitment to investing in high-end capabilities,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a NATO news release. “By pooling resources, Allies can buy and operate major assets collectively that would be too expensive for individual countries to purchase. This investment in state-of-the-art technology shows the strength of transatlantic defence cooperation as we continue to adapt to a more unstable world”.
The E-7 Wedgetail
The E-7 provides a fully integrated, combat-proven, flexible command and control node that delivers multi-domain awareness in the most challenging operational environments. The E-7’s open systems architecture and agile software design enable the aircraft’s capabilities to evolve and remain ahead of future threats.
The E-7 tracks multiple airborne and maritime threats simultaneously with 360-degree coverage via the Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) sensor. MESA provides the warfighter with critical domain awareness to detect and identify adversarial targets at long range and dynamically adjusts to emerging tactical situations.
Other E-7 operators
Other E-7 operators include the US Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Turkish Air Force and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.
The E-7 uses a well-established supply chain which significantly reduces maintenance and logistics costs and increases mission readiness on day one.
Converted from the Next-Generation 737-700, the E-7 capitalizes on existing commercial derivative aircraft design, certification and modification processes, allowing E-7s to be fielded to meet Air Force needs.
NATO E-3A fleet
NATO has operated a fleet of E-3A (AWACS) aircraft since the 1980s. Based at Geilenkirchen airbase in Germany, the AWACS have flown in every major NATO operation, including the fight against ISIS as well as on NATO’s eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The E-7 is expected to have its main base at Geilenkirchen and could operate from several forward locations across Europe. The Wedgetail will be part of the Alliance’s future surveillance and control project which will field NATO’s next generation of surveillance systems from the mid-2030s.
Photo credit: NATO, Boeing