The RAAF’s E-7A Wedgetail aircraft has returned home following a full-year deployment in the Middle East with Australia’s Air Task Group 630.
The aircraft performed airborne command and control as part of Operation Okra, the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the US-led Coalition to combat the Daesh terrorist threat in Iraq.
Over the course of the contribution — which came in response to a request of the Iraqi government — all six No. 2 Squadron E-7A Wedgetail’s were rotated into supporting operations in the Middle East since the commencement of operations in September 2014.
Over 550 missions were flown over the period, which included a mission sortie of 17.3 hours flown, the longest flight recorded from a Boeing 737 airframe.
The RAAF E-7A Wedgetail was responsible for the command and control of all coalition aircraft in a battle management area (BMA), with crews regularly managing more than 80 combat aircraft at once while in the BMA.
The aircraft also overcame significant logistic and operational challenges, with personnel and aircraft relocated bases twice during operations in the Middle East, maintaining capability throughout the transition period.
Officer Commanding No. 42 Wing Group Captain Hinton Tayloe noted the importance of the E-7A Wedgetail’s contribution to the operation.
“Fundamentally, the E-7A Wedgetail was a ‘legitimate force enabler’ – enabling coalition forces to shape their activities,” GPCAPT Tayloe said. “It was through the RAAF E-7A’s consistent delivery and known reliability that it achieved a reputation for delivering timely support with precision when called upon.”
Commander Surveillance and Response Group Air Commodore Barbara Courtney, added, “2SQN’s consistent and unwavering support to Air Task Group 630 was achieved as a result of all categories of personnel combining to create a cohesive and agile ‘team projecting force’ for the operational commander.
“The ability of the E-7A to integrate and perform with excellence in support of coalition forces demonstrates that Air Force has an advanced, highly capable airborne early warning and control platform with quality people underpinning it, the envy of armed forces worldwide.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the E-7A Wedgetail into RAAF service.
Modelled on a Boeing 737-700, the E-7A Wedgetail combines long-range surveillance radar, secondary radar, passive detection surveillance receivers and tactical/strategic voice and data communications systems.
This capability provides the ADF with the ability to survey, command, control and co-ordinate a joint air, sea and land battle in real time.