Wedgetail: Australia calls for “fundamental” review of radar capability

As promised last week, here’s my news update on Australian 737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) Wedgetail program.

Boeing confident of Australian Wedgetail review

By Stephen Trimble

Boeing is confident that a review of Australia’s delayed Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system programme will support the technology for service entry.

The Australian government has commissioned an independent review of the basic workings of the modified 737-700′s Northrop Grumman multi-role electronic scanned array (MESA) radar, suggesting concerns about its fundamental soundness.

The eight-year-old Wedgetail acquisition programme is running about three years behind schedule, with delays caused by issues with airframe modifications and developmental problems with the aircraft’s MESA radar and electronic warfare system.


Despite the programme’s legacy, Egan Greenstein, Boeing’s senior manager for AEW&C, says the company has made significant progress over the past few months.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has granted a supplemental type certificate for the Wedgetail platform, and five of Australia’s six aircraft have reached flying status, he adds.

“We feel confident in every way that they’re going to find that the foundation of the radar is sound, that we’re on the right path and there are no weaknesses with the system,” says Greenstein.

“If there was something fundamental that was a problem, then, sure, every programme is at risk in any country,” Greenstein says. “We’re confident that’s not going to be the finding and we will proceed with development and fielding.”

Canberra has commissioned the Lincoln Laboratories of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to evaluate the MESA radar’s architecture .

Unlike the Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system, the MESA radar does not employ a movable antenna to sweep for targets. Its active array is designed to electronically steer the radar beam over a 360° range nearly instantly.

But the MESA design employs some unique features compared to even active electronically scanned arrays. The transmit/receive modules, for example, are installed in the roof of the aircraft cabin, rather than directly behind the emitter in the “top hat” array.

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9 Responses to Wedgetail: Australia calls for “fundamental” review of radar capability

  1. Matt 19 May, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    I’ve seen an article saying that Lincoln Labs has already finished the testing/review and found it fundamentally sound.
    “The aerial trials of the high-tech airborne air defence system followed a lengthy series of laboratory tests earlier this year on the performance of the Wedgetail’s radar by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory.

    The Lincoln Laboratory assessment found there were no fundamental performance problems with the state-of-the art phased array radar that would place the Wedgetail project in jeopardy. ”
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25504381-31477,00.html

    The fact that this review was done ~9 years into the program is a little disconcerting though. I wonder if, during the program start, the specs weren’t written to force Boeing to use NG’s proposed MESA that Boeing may have chose some other radar technology. Perhaps one that didn’t lead to so many integration problems and delays as this one was reported to.

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  4. Hypnosis 13 July, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    Have they actually introduced the Wedgetail yet?

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  7. Houston Injury Lawyer 17 July, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    Anyone know what the result of the review was? I can’t seem to find any information as to whether the contract was continued or discontinued. Much appreciate any feedback.

  8. Bill 25 July, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    I can’t find an update for Australia’s usage of the 737, but it does seem The 737 AEW&C has also been selected by the Turkish Air Force, no longer calling it Wedgetail but instead “Project Peace Eagle”

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