The Boeing E-7A "Wedgetail" serves several modern air powers of the world in the Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) role, helping to manage active battle spaces (at the tactical level) while having the capability to scan some millions of square miles of terrain in a single sortie. The aircraft, developed under "Project Wedgetail" for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), is built upon the existing proven framework of the Boeing 737-700 (Next Generation), a twin-engine narrow-body commercial passenger airliner introduced in 1968. Fully modernized, this aircraft is further outfitted with advanced electronics and systems for the AEW&C role.
After achieving a first-flight in 2004, the E-7A was introduced into service with the RAAF during 2009. A total of fourteen aircraft of the series have been built to date (2017) and these are actively operated by the RAAF, the Turkish Air Force (as the "Peace Eagle") and the Rebublic of Korean Air Force (South Korea) (as the "Peace Eye").
Seated over the dorsal aft spine of the aircraft is the Northrop Grumman Multirole, Electronically-Scanned Array (MESA) radar system which allows for simultaneous tracking and scanning of multiple airborne and ground targets, this information being made available to air and ground commanders. The radar system is affixed atop its mounting structure ahead of the tail fin and is static (non-rotating). With this equipment giving the platform an inherent capability unavailable to traditional combat aircraft, the aircraft can serve all branches of a given military as its "eyes in the skies". Beyond communication with other like-aircraft, the platform is also seamlessly integrated into the existing communications pipelines allowing coordination with interceptors, strike aircraft and aerial tankers. Beyond its given military roles, the aircraft is also valuable in the Search and Rescue (SAR) role when scanning vast amounts of ocean terrain is needed. Internally, the passenger section showcases ten crew consoles and can sustain mission flights up to ten hours in duration. A base operating crew is two pilots while mission specialists and electronics analysts manage the onboard equipment.
The aircraft sports an overall length of 110.3 feet, a height of 41.1 feet and a wingspan of 117 feet. Empty weight is 102,750lb against an MTOW of 171,000lb. Power is from 2 x CFM International CFM56-7B27A turbofan engines developing 27,000lb of thrust each. Performance includes a cruising speed of 530 miles per hour, a range out to 3,500 nautical miles and a service ceiling up to 41,000 feet.
The RAAF originally ordered four Wedgetails with an option for a further three and the first examples arrived in 2006. Two of the option aircraft have since been acted on. Though continuously delayed, some six operate with the service out of RAAF Base Williamtown. The first combat-related sortie for RAAF Wedgetails was in October of 2014 over Iraq against elements of ISIS (Islamic State). Official Final Operational Capability (FOC) was granted for the fleet in May of 2015.
The Turkish Air Force recognizes the E-7A Wedgetail under the "Peace Eagle" name and is detailed elsewhere on this site. Four such aircraft make up its active fleet (2017).
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September 2018 - The British Ministry of Defense is contemplating the purchase of the E-7 Wedgetail to succeed its aging fleet of E-3 Sentry platforms. Six E-3D models are currently in service though maintenance issues limit the availability of the fleet in number.
March 2019 - The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD) has moved to acquire five Boeing E-7 Airborne Early Waring & Control (AEW&C) aircraft (based on the Boeing Model 737 jet airliner). The type will be used to succeed and aging line of Boeing E-3D "Sentry" platforms based on the Boeing Model 707 jet airliner.
May 2019 - The Royal Air Force will receive two (of its planned five) E-7 Wedgetail aircraft for the AEW&C role converted directly from exiting commercial airliners.
November 2020 - The Royal Air Force has received sections of fuselage to begin conversion of two Boeing 737-700 airframes into the E-7 "Wedgetail" platform. The work will be handled at STS Aviation's Birmingham (UK) facility.
January 2021 - An ex-Chinese BBJ (Boeing Business Jet) will be converted to serve as one of the British Royal Air Force's newest E-7 Wedgetail platforms for EWA service with the branch.
September 2021 - The USAF is eying the purchase of the E-7 Wedgetail AWACs platform to succeed an aging line of E-3 Sentry platforms in same role.
April 2022 - The USAF has committed to the purchase of the E-7A Wedgetail to fulfill its AWACS requirement and succeed an aging line of Boeing E-3 Sentrys in same role. The initial service-centric prototype is expected in 2027.
Australia; South Korea; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States (announced)
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Special-Mission: Airborne Early Warning (AEW)
Specially-equipped platform providing over-battlefield Command and Control (C2) capability for allied aerial elements.
✓Special-Mission: Electronic Warfare (EW)
Equipped to actively deny adversaries the ElectroMagnetic (EM) spectrum and protect said spectrum for allied forces.
110.2 ft (33.60 m)
117.0 ft (35.66 m)
41.3 ft (12.60 m)
102,746 lb (46,605 kg)
171,002 lb (77,565 kg)
+68,255 lb (+30,960 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Boeing E-7A Wedgetail production variant)
monoplane / low-mounted / swept-back
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represent the most popular mainplane arrangement.
Mainplanes are low-mounted along the sides of the fuselage.
The planform features wing sweep back along the leading edges of the mainplane, promoting higher operating speeds.
(Structural descriptors pertain to the Boeing E-7A Wedgetail production variant)
2 x CFM International CFM56-7 (CFM56-7B27A) non-afterburning turbofan engines developing 27,300lb of thrust each.
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