Australia's first mission crew for the Boeing 737-based Wedgetail airborne early warning and control system aircraft has completed its training, following a seven-month course.

The first intake of eight Royal Australian Air Force students received their training with support from eight instructors and three role-players from Boeing. They underwent 1,200h of training on the aircraft's battle management mission systems.

"Boeing Defence Australia is responsible for training the students in non-tactical areas across all aircraft mission systems, including datalinks, communications systems and the multi-role electronically scanned array radar, to ensure they graduate with the necessary skills," says Todd Barker, the company's Wedgetail AEW&C mission crew lead instructor and course director.

© Boeing

Based on the 737-700, the Wedgetail can track airborne and maritime targets simultaneously with its Northrop Grumman surveillance radar, and has 10 mission crew consoles.

Under a contract with the RAAF, Boeing provides programme management, supply-chain management and engineering, maintenance and training services to support Australia's Wedgetail fleet.

The nation has formally accepted three aircraft in an "initial operating configuration". Another is scheduled to arrive before year-end, with a fourth to follow in 2011.

Completing the first training course represents a high point in the Wedgetail's long and troubled history. Boeing delivered the service's first of six modified aircraft in 2003, but the programme fell three years behind schedule because of problems with structural modifications and radar performance. In November 2009 the RAAF accepted its first two Wedgetails with limited capability.

 737 wedgetail crew
© Boeing

The AEW&C programme is listed on the Australian defence ministry's projects of concern list. Established in 2008, this is intended to help government and industry leaders focus on solving issues involved with projects which face significant challenges with scheduling, cost or capability delivery.

Click here to see Flightglobal's cutaway drawing of Boeing's 737-based AEW&C aircraft

Source: Flight International