The US Air Force has confirmed it will acquire an unspecified number of E-7 Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft to replace some of its ageing E-3 Sentry AWACS fleet.
In an April 26 statement, the USAF said the E-7s would “replace a portion” of the E-3 fleet, and that an initial aircraft will be delivered in 2027 under a US$227m (A$318m) “rapid prototyping” program. The USAF has previously stated in its FY2023 budget request that it wanted to retire 15 of its 31 E-3s, but has stressed that the E-7 will not necessarily replace these on a one-for-one basis.
“The E-7 system was developed by Australia for the Australian Defence Forces,” the statement reads. “The unbreakable US and Australia alliance and interoperability amongst the armed services enabled the Department of the Air Force to leverage this considerable investment and exceptional capability.”
It added that E-7 is “the only platform capable of meeting the requirements for the Defense Department’s tactical battle management, command and control, and moving target indication capabilities within the timeframe needed to replace the E-3.”
The confirmation comes after increasing interest in the E-7 over the past year by US officials, culminating in an extended deployment to the US by an RAAF E-7A in February to coincide with Exercise Red Flag 22-1.