Wedgetail sets mission duration record

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 12, 2015
An E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning, control and surveillance aircraft at its operating base in the Middle East Region after completing a new record by flying a 17.1 hour operational mission over Iraq and Syria. Along with a RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft and six F/A-18 Hornets, the Australian aircraft participate in close air support and precision strike operations, air-to-air refuelling and airborne command and control in Iraq and Syria as part of the international coalition formed to disrupt and degrade the Daesh threat.
Wedgetail at its operating base in the Middle East Region after its record setting 17.1 hour operational mission over Iraq and Syria. (Defence)

A Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control platform has set a new record by flying a 17-hour operational mission over Iraq and Syria, Defence stated on November 11.

The senior surveillance and control officer explained that coalition demand for surveillance aircraft like the Wedgetail is substantial: “Even before the addition of Russian operations in Syria there was a lot happening in the region that we needed to survey.

“The Russian operations have only increased the complexity of an already very complex area, making our work even more important.”

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13 Comments

  • Sean Kinsella

    says:

    How effectively do aircrews function in the latter hours of a 17 hr mission? Are there additional operators with provision for real in-flight rest? The tendency for today’s military to call for more and more extended tours of duty by all combatants flies in the face of all human factors research. Being a fighter pilot being guided to the interception of a possibly hostile target by an operator who has been airborne 15 hours with the sort of rest breaks available on even the quietest of aircraft doesn’t sound good to me.

  • Mick181

    says:

    Sean It’s why the military demand a much higher level of physical fitness than is req in civilian life. The aircraft also i believe have a rest area on board. What makes great soldiers is the ability to be able to operate when tired and under great stress.

  • Harry

    says:

    I think we might need a few more of these excellent craft, than just six, going by how useful they are and how many missions they have flown thus far in their as yet short operational history.

  • Charles Falkiner

    says:

    Few more Wedgetails and Super Hornets with conformal tanks would be a much better bet than the vastly expensive F35

  • Daryl

    says:

    Some mates in the USAF (now retired) once flew a 31+ hour mission in one of their E4’s(747-200) It started out as a routine training gig,and gained momentum from there.I forget the exact details,but seem to remember those guys didn’t get deployment pay,as the flight was originally just a routine training flight around Nebraska.

  • Derrick

    says:

    What is the maintenance downtime for a 17 hour mission. It would take a massive toll on the aircraft to fly that many hours.

  • TimC69

    says:

    I think we might need a few more of these excellent craft, than just six, going by how useful they are and how many missions they have flown thus far in their as yet short operational history.

    Couldnt agree more Harry.

    add 2 more Wedgetails, 12 Poseidons, 7 Tritons and we’ll have a great survaillence capability we’ve never had before. With regards to rest time, a long time ago when i was in the army we did a 20 hour exercise finished of with a 30km forced march in under 5 hours.-in boots !

  • Jason

    says:

    The Wedgetail’s Okra missions usually have an augmented flight crew who can swap out during the mission.

    There will be no more 737 Wedgetails built as the -700 is almost out of production, plus it is generally agreed that the Wedgetail and its Korean and Turkish equivalents should probably have been larger airframes from the start.

    There is no reason there would be additional maintenance time needed after a 17 hour mission as opposed to a 7 hour mission. In fact, the more airplanes fly, the more they want to fly. It’s downtime that causes seals to dry up, fluids to leak etc.

  • John N

    says:

    If I remember correctly when the Government order the Wedgetails (as they were called then, and not E-7A’s), there was a firm order for four (4) and an option for three (3), of which eventually two of the options were exercised and we ended with a fleet of six.

    But if memory serves me correctly (and it has been a long time), I was under the impression that a “7th MESA radar system” was also ordered and procured (originally intended for that possible last and 7th airframe).

    If that last MESA was in fact ordered and acquired, then yes there is the possibility that an additional airframe (of the same configuration) could be procured, not 100% sure if this did or didn’t happen, or maybe if it did the 7th has become a ‘spare’ or may have even ended up being used in the Turkish or South Korean acquisitions.

    Anyway, regardless of all that, the E-7A’s (after all the initial problems) have turned out to be an outstanding purchase for the RAAF and if additional airframes are to be procured at sometime in in the future, then possibly they might be based on the P8A airframe (-800 series rather than -700 series).

    Time will tell, until then, great job being performed by the E-7A’s and their crews too!!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Mick181

    says:

    I doubt there will be any more, too much money req across the ADF. $100b worth of New Fighters, AFVs, Frigates & Subs to be paid for over the next 20-25 yrs
    Also the ADF tend to only get enough to give us a baseline capability such as 72 F-35A, 6 E-7As, 7 CH-47Fs, 8-12 P-8As, 7 Tritons, 2 LHDs, 12 DD/FFs, 6 Subs, 59 Tanks, 225 ARVs, 450 IFVs This would not be enough in the case of a major shooting war.
    1.7% of GDP only goes so far.

  • Adrian P

    says:

    Managing fatigue is a legitimate concern as there are still airliners operating over Iraq.
    We should hope that preventing a shoot down of any of these aircraft is achievable through out a mission.
    Certainly we would not want to be erroneously involved in a shoot down of a civil aircraft,

  • The aircraft has 6 or 8 big., comfortable leather chairs in the back (can’t remember if it was 1+2 per row or 2+2, sorry). The Wedgetails often carry the Prime Minister and/or Chief of Air Force on some flights (obviously when a full entourage isn’t required).

    Between those chairs and the galley gear, the crew can get a reasonable level of rest.

    As to 17 hours in the air: long haul airliners and biz jets get up to 14 to 20 hour flights without requiring significant maintenance (typically a 1 hour turn around depending on scheduling). Given the E7A is a 737 I’m reasonably sure it probably didn’t need a lot of servicing on airframe, engines, etc.

    Now, the radar may be a whole different issue re: maintenance time per flight hour. I’m not familiar with its servicing demands 🙂

  • Jason

    says:

    Tony Moclair may be able to elaborate due to his recent (excellent) article, but I think the crew rest is 6-8 older style nearly lie-flat biz class seats in 3-4 rows of two each in the rear starboard cabin only.

    The Wedgetails will typically carry two flight crews who can either augment each other in busy situations such as A2A refueling, or can rest and swap out every 4/6 hours on the longer hops.

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