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US Air Force Picks Boeing E-7 Wedgetail as AWACS Replacement

The US Department of the Air Force (DAF) has selected the Boeing E-7 Wedgetail to replace a part of the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) fleet.

The E-7 was the “only platform 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 DAF said.

A contract is expected to be awarded in 2023 calling for rapid prototyping to deliver the aircraft by 2027.

US Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft
A US Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve May 27, 2017. Image: US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Michael Battles

$227 Million Requested for Prototype Contract

The service has requested $227 million in “research, development, test and evaluation funds” for the aircraft in the 2023 budget, which will come from the retirement of 15 of the fleet’s 31 E-3s. 

The air force is also planning to fund a second rapid prototype aircraft in 2024,l followed by a “production decision in 2025 fiscal to continue fielding aircraft.”

The E-7 is outfitted on the Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft, which is smaller and more fuel efficient then the 707-based E-3 Sentry, according to The War Zone. The E-7 was developed by Australia for the Australian Defence Forces.

Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mark D. Kelly was quoted as saying the E-3s have “served our nation well.”

However, “there’s a reason why exactly zero airlines on the globe fly the 707,” he said. “Because it takes miracle workers every day to just get it up in the air.”

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