Australia prepares for first Wedgetail inspection

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A Boeing 737 Wedgetail will enter heavy maintenance for the first time in July, six months before the Royal Australian Air Force will receive its first example with full capability.

Boeing delivered the service's first of six Wedgetail airborne early warning and control system aircraft in 2003, but the programme fell three years behind schedule because of problems with structural modifications and radar performance.

Last November the RAAF accepted the first two Wedgetails with limited capability. Another aircraft will be delivered with full capability by the end of the year, with the remainder scheduled to follow in 2011.

 royal australian air force boeing 737 wedgetail boeing
© Boeing

Meanwhile, the first test aircraft will enter a heavy maintenance interval in July termed R7, which includes elements of a C and D check in commercial service.

The depot service will include intensive inspections to structural modifications in the cabin, and particularly of Section 46, which supports the 3,180kg (7,000lb) Northrop Grumman multi-role electronically scanned array (MESA).

However, the R7 inspections will not require Boeing to remove the MESA antenna from the aircraft.

Boeing Defence Australia (BDA) is to perform depot maintenance for all six aircraft under a A$250 million ($210 million) support contract that runs through 2014. The company expects to reduce the R7 cycle from nine to six months within this period.

Maintenance support for the Wedgetail fleet will be performed at RAAF Williamtown, New South Wales, where 2 Sqn is based. The work has moved from RAAF Amberley, Queensland, where BDA modified four of the six aircraft.

BDA's training operation, meanwhile, in late May graduated its first two pilots inducted for Wedgetail flight training after a 19-week course.