Naval Air: Wedgetail Finally Makes It To Oz


December 1, 2009: Australia has received its first two Wedgetail AWACS (aerial early warning and control) aircraft. Another three will be delivered in the next year. Australia is using these militarized Boeing 737 transports, modified by Boeing, as the basis for the Wedgetail. The cruise speed for the 737 is 910 kilometers an hour and the Wedgetail version has a crew of 8-12 pilots and equipment operators, who use the search radar and various other sensors. The 78 ton Wedgetail can stay in the air for more than ten hours per sortie.

Earlier this year, Australia used the trainer version of a Wedgetail (it already had to help prepare crews) to develop and test the use of Wedgetail to control three ScanEagle UAVs. This enables the Wedgetail to expand its recon capabilities, using its own AESA radar and the video on the UAVs to quickly identify land or sea traffic. Any UAV with suitable communications equipment can be controlled by the Wedgetail. This technique has also been tested with fighter-bombers controlling UAVs.

Wedgetail development began twelve years ago, and was originally to have been delivered three years ago. There were development problems. Nevertheless, Turkey and South Korea are also buying Wedgetail.

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