The Wedgetail as a Trailblazing Program
2015-11-15 The Wedgetail is part of the Royal Australian’s 21st century air power transformation effort and strategy.
It is the core air battle management platform in the RAAF and is often referred to as an AWACs, although it is not.
The underlying story of the approach to introduce the Wedgetail and then how the platform is being modernized highlights why the program is trailblazing in many ways.
The Wedgetail has brought to the fight, unique battle management capabilities.
The Wedgetail is operated by South Korea and Turkey as well, although the Aussies have developed the most advanced version, but the South Koreans refer to it as their first “fifth generation” platform.
To understand what they mean, one has to look at some of the Wedgetail’s core capabilities.
Most fundamentally, the Wedgetail does not operate like an AWACs.
The AWACs works in tracks directing the air battle but does so with a 360 degree rotating radar.
It is the hub of a hub and spoke air combat system.
With the coming of the fifth generation aircraft, there is a need for air battle management, but not of the hub and spoke kind.
And with the challenge of operating in the expanded battlespace, it is not simply a question of management of air assets, but management of the assets operating in the expanded battlespace, regardless if they are air, naval or ground.
The Wedgetail is a key step forward in shaping a 21st century or to use the South Korean characterization “a fifth generation” approach to battle management for evolving combat demands.
The Wedgetail provides for the key function of air traffic control; which will remain important in the 21st century battlespace.
But it is designed with the reach rather than range approach characteristic of fifth generation systems; the MESA radar can be dialed up in terms of energy and focused in terms of direction on priority scan areas.
With the first combat operations initiated in the Middle East, the Wedgetail squadron and the RAAF are evolving not only lessons learned, but shaping demands for the evolution of the software systems within the Wedgetail.
The Wedgetail is one of the first if not the first software upgradeable aircraft and built so from the ground up.
Rather than requirements set by testers and acquisition officials, the warfighting community can shape a demand side driven set of desired changes, which is then worked out with the engineering side of the house, which includes a key partnership with Boeing and Northrop Grumman in shaping the doability of meeting the demands.
The photos in the slideshow provide various shots of the Wedgetail.
The first photo shows he view from the cockpit of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft as it approaches a RAAF KC-30 Multirole Tanker Transport aircraft in the sky over northern Iraq. Clearly visible is the extended probe of the tanker’s refueling boom, which features the latest technology available for this difficult operation.
The second and third photos show 2 Squadron Wedgetail, Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft , AIR – AIR of first to arrive in Australia. Flying along coast of New South Wales from Williamtown Air Force Base then over Sydney Harbour.
The fourth and fifth photos show KC-30A MRTT and E-7A Wedgetail conducting Air to Air refueling testing in the airspace near RAAF Williamtown.
The sixth photo shows the Minister for Defence, The Hon Kevin Andrews MP (bottom of the stairs), and the Deputy Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Gavin ‘Leo’ Davies, AO, CSC exit a No 2 Squadron E-7A Wedgetail aircraft after being shown the onboard Mission System.
The seventh photo shows Squadron Leader Andrew Boeree (foreground) shows the Minister for Defence, The Hon Kevin Andrews MP; the Member for Solomon, Mrs Natasha Griggs MP; and the Deputy Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Gavin ‘Leo’ Davies, AO, CSC the onboard Mission System on the situational display in a No 2 Squadron E-7A Wedgetail aircraft.
The final photo shows two F/A-18A Hornets and a E-7A Wedgetail aircraft fly over the Anzac Day 2015 National Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.