U.S. Air Force top general isn’t ready to buy the E-7 Wedgetail just yet
WASHINGTON - The Air Force Colonel General wants to take a deliberate approach to replacing its aging E-3 early warning and control aircraft in the air and is unwilling to move into the Boeing E-7 Wedgetail despite the support of the Colonel General of Service to get involved Asia Pacific.
"I really want to see what our options are," said Air Force chief of staff General Charles "CQ" Brown during a roundtable with reporters for the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium on Feb.25.
“It would be premature for me to get involved in the Wedgetail or a timeline now. This is something I need to spend a little more time looking at. But I do know that there are some Wedgetail fans out there. "
One of those fans is General Kenneth Wilsbach, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, who told reporters on Feb. 24 that he was in favor of a short-term purchase of the Boeing 737-based Wedgetail to replace the aging E-3 sentry post. This is based on the older Boeing 707 and is colloquially referred to as "AWACS".
"The fact is, because of the E-3's reliability, we actually need something relatively fast," Wilsbach said, according to Air Force Magazine. "It's getting harder and harder to get in the air."
The US Air Force currently has an inventory of 31 E-3s that were manufactured between 1971 and 1984. The E-3 is expected to fly through 2035, but the aircraft will be more difficult to maintain as parts become obsolete and more become difficult to source.
Due to "sustainability challenges related to the delivery of the required parts and the maintenance of the aging aircraft", the Air Force's E-3 fleet did not meet its availability targets in the 2011 to 2019 financial years, the Government Accountability Office said in a report for 2020.
The U.S. Air Force has not come up with a plan to replace the E-3, but there have been rumors for the past few fiscal years of the service's interest in budgeting the Wedgetail if enough money could be found. So far, however, there has been no record program by the US Air Force for the E-7 Wedgetail.
Boeing originally developed the E-7 for the Royal Australian Air Force, which put the aircraft into service in 2009. Since then, Turkey and South Korea have procured the plane, and the UK has also committed to purchasing five wedge details with the first UK plane expected to be delivered in 2023.
In 2018, while serving as PACAF commander, Brown flew an Australian E-7 and spoke to representatives from the Royal Australian Air Force about the aircraft.
On Thursday, Brown said his experience aboard the Wedgetail showed it was a "capable platform" but he still wants to see what other options are on the table.
"While I am talking to our employees here and we are looking at the E-3 and the mission-capable tariffs for the E-3 and what we are spending on it today, we have to do something. I do not yet know what kind of thing that is," he said. "We really looked at the options, and the Wedgetail is one of them. But it may not be the only option. "
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