Dubai 09: Australia poised to receive first delayed Wedgetail

Washington DC
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The Boeing 737 Wedgetail that arrived here yesterday will be formally delivered the Royal Australian Air Force on 24 November after a costly, three-year delay.

RAAF Air Marshal Mark Binksin, however, confirms to Flight Daily News that the aircraft are not scheduled to become operational until late 2010. Lingering problems with the electronic support measures (ESM) suite supplied by BAE Systems Australia prevent the RAAF from using the airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft in operations.

The RAAF's flight and ground crews will start using the first two of six Wedgetails on order in January for training, Binskin says.

The non-operational delivery later this month is long-awaited after radar and ESM development problems delayed first delivery from 2006 and cost Boeing $1 billion in write-downs to fix the problems.

The Australian government's concerns prompted an engineering review by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratories, which reaffirmed that Boeing and Northrop Grumman's technical approach was indeed valid.

737 aew&c billypix
 © Billypix

Boeing is now marketing the 737 Wedgetail design to the United Arab Emirates, which is also considering rival bids of the Northrop E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and Saab 2000 Erieye.

Binskin, speaking at the Defense International Air Chiefs conference, said the Wedgetail fleet will dramatically improve the RAAF's ability to monitor and protect Australia's vast border and maritime possessions, as well as better co-ordinate regional air operations.