Boeing has conducted a functional check flight of the first Australian-modified 737 airborne early warning and control system aircraft, having also recently passed the first type acceptance test and evaluation (TAT&E) milestone in the nation's delayed Wedgetail surveillance programme.
Australia is launch customer for the 737-based AEW&C system, with six aircraft on order. Its first two aircraft underwent modification - including the installation of Northrop Grumman's multirole electronically scanned array radar, ventral fins and mission equipment - in the USA, with the remainder being modified by Boeing Australia at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Amberley, Queensland.
Following hardware, software and integration problems, the programme is now running two years late, with the first two aircraft scheduled for delivery in March 2009 and all six to be accepted by the end of next year.
South Korea and Turkey have also ordered the 737-based AEW&C aircraft.
During the two-and-a-half-hour functional check flight from RAAF Amberley, aircraft number three underwent a series of functional tests to verify the airworthiness of its systems and structures. A second check flight was scheduled to take place ahead of the aircraft's return to Seattle on 31 January for a five-month development and type acceptance flight test programme, before being returned to Australia for configuration updates and production acceptance testing ahead of delivery.
Boeing completed the first block of TAT&E late last year, with the programme meeting customer requirements, says vice-president AEW&C Maureen Dougherty. Subsystem and systems integration work is going well in laboratories and flight tests, she says, with progress being made in the areas that have held up the programme to date, including radar performance, datalink software development and testing and mission system integration.
Boeing will focus next on electronic support measures and electronic warfare system testing, says Dougherty.