The RAAF took ‘initial delivery’ of two Boeing Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft at a ceremony at RAAF Williamtown on November 26.
The ceremony was attended by Chief of Air Force AIRMSHL Mark Binskin; the DMO’s AEW&C program manager, AVM Chris Deeble; and Boeing’s AEW&C program vice president Maureen Doherty, as well as members of the RAAF’s Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group (SRG), 42WG and 2SQN.
The initial delivery denotes that the aircraft have been provided by Boeing to the RAAF for training purposes, but will not be formally handed over to their new owner until March 2010. Despite wearing their ADF serial numbers – A30-001 and A30-004 – the aircraft will remain on Boeing’s books and the US civil register until that time, and Boeing must provide a pilot in command and a flight test engineer on all RAAF training flights until the official handover.
Boeing confirmed that the delivery schedule of the remainder of the six aircraft fleet will see the first Wedgetail delivered with an operational electronic warfare and ESM system from mid next year prior to initial operational capability (IOC) being declared late in 2010, with the last of the six scheduled for early 2011.
“Development, test and evaluation are still ongoing with many hurdles still to be overcome, particularly with respect to radar, electronic support measures and integrated system performance and stability,” AVM Deeble said. “However with the initial delivery of two aircraft, Defence will now be able to conduct familiarisation training while Boeing completes the remaining test program and acceptance activities.”
The $4 billion Wedgetail project has experienced delays of approximately 40 months from an original delivery schedule of 2006, costing Boeing upwards of US$1.7bn (A$1.83bn) in costs and penalties to date. The company is confident of gaining additional overseas orders for the aircraft, in addition to those already ordered by Turkey and South Korea.
Read deputy editor Andrew McLaughlin’s blog on the Wedgetail arrival here.