The RAAF’s six strong fleet of Boeing Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft is available for operational service after Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare announced today that Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the jet had been achieved.
“Australia now has one of the most advanced air battlespace management capabilities in the world,” Minister Clare told a ceremony at Fairbairn Defence Establishment, Canberra Airport today. “The Wedgetail is the big brain in the battlespace. It knows more about what’s going on in a war zone than anything else.”
Reflecting that Wedgetail was a capability “30 years in the making”, Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown said, “The most important thing Air Force does is control the air domain, and that is what Wedgetail allows us to do.”
The contract to acquire the Wedgetail platform under Project AIR 5077 was announced in December 2000, but a series of delays due to technical immaturity and systems integration problems saw the program progressively delayed.
“I particularly want to thank the team at Boeing for their commitment to this project,” Minister Clare said. “This is a very complex piece of military hardware. The project faced a lot of challenges. We have met these challenges by working together.”
Prime contractor Boeing elected to absorb a significant financial shortfall in remediating the Wedgetail, which was essentially a developmental program acquired under a fixed price contract. So while IOC for the aircraft is five years behind the original schedule, the Australian taxpayer has not been exposed to cost over-runs on the project.
The Minister said the Wedgetail program will “shortly” be removed from the Projects of Concerns list.