The winning bidder for the Australian government's Project Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft will benefit not only from that country's order, but also its desire to seek additional orders for Wedgetail from other nations.

"There are a lot of Australian companies involved in the various aspects of the project, and the Austalian government is keen to push its option to other potential clients," points out a source from Raytheon, which is involved in one of three bidding consortia.

The source says the Australians are already in discussions with a number of other countries that currently lack AEW&C capabilities. "But in the long run it is hoping the system will not only be acquired by those lacking AEW&C capabilities, but also those looking to replace existing AEW&C aircraft such as Boeing's AWACS and the Lockheed Martin Orion P3."

The cost of developing Wedgetail basically from scratch means that an order from Australia alone will not make the project economically feasible, making the push by the Australian authorities vital to its financial success.

There are three consortia bidding for the project, including Boeing with its AWACS system, Lockheed Martin-Northrop Grumman based round the C-130J Hercules, and Raytheon, Airbus Industrie and Israel Aircraft Industries, which features a radar mounted on an Airbus A310-300 platform.

The Australian Ministry of Defence last month signed the Initial Design Activity (IDA) with the three bidders to evaluate their systems.

The final Request for Tender (RFT) is expected to be issued in mid-September, and the winner announced in early 1999.

Source: Flight Daily News