Boeing has announced that it will team with Birmingham-based STS Aviation Services to conduct the conversion work on the five 737 Wedgetail AEW&C Mk1 aircraft on order for the UK’s Royal Air Force.
The announcement was a surprise after Cambridge-based Marshall Aerospace and Defence had previously been announced has having gained the conversion work. Instead, the work will now be conducted by STS at the former Monarch Aircraft Engineering facility at Birmingham Airport.
The work involves the conversion of ‘green’ 737-700 airframes with the installation of the Northrop Grumman MESA radar, mission systems, communications, electronic support measures, crew consoles, and other modifications required to missionise the aircraft.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with STS Aviation Services in Birmingham on the Wedgetail,” managing director of Boeing Defence UK Anna Keeling said in a statement. “Wedgetail will provide the UK with the most advanced and reliable aircraft of its type in the world at a fixed price, and this work will provide good jobs for the many skilled aerospace engineers and mechanics in and around Birmingham.”
The UK MoD announced it would buy the five Wedgetails in 2019 after visiting Australia to receive detailed briefings on RAAF Wedgetail operations, and has insisted that the conversion work on the aircraft be conducted in the UK. Boeing Australia will likely provide technical personnel and engineering support for the conversions after performing the work on all but one of the RAAF’s Wedgetails in Australia, while other Australian companies are expected to provide various other components and support.
The UK’s first two aircraft have been acquired second-hand from commercial service and have been stripped and serviced in preparation for delivery to the UK later this year.
The UK will become the fourth operator of the type after Australia, South Korea and Turkey. The first RAF Wedgetail is due to enter service in 2023, and the fleet will be based with the bulk of the RAF’s other ISTAR platforms at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.