Australia's Boeing 737-700-based Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft has achieved initial operational capability (IOC).

"I particularly want to thank the team at Boeing for their commitment to this project," says minister for defence materiel Jason Clare. "This is a very complex piece of military hardware. The project faced a lot of challenges. We have met these challenges by working together."

Australia received its sixth, and final, Wedgetail aircraft in June. The system can track airborne and maritime targets simultaneously with its Northrop Grumman active electronic scanned array surveillance radar. It has 10 mission crew consoles.

 Wedgetail - Commonwealth of Australia

Commonwealth of Australia

Although Royal Australian Air Force officials have praised the Wedgetail in recent years, the programme has suffered a long and troubled history.

In January 2011, Boeing accepted a charge of $136 million related to software issues associated with 737 AEW&C aircraft destined for Australia and Turkey. This followed previous charges coming to over $1 billion related to the programme, as the schedule for the first delivery of the Wedgetail to Australia slipped by more than three years - the RAAF received its first Wedgetail in November 2009.

Programme delays caused the Wedgetail to be added to Canberra's "Projects of Concern" list in January 2008. The defence materiel organisation says its removal from the list "will occur shortly". It notes that the aircraft has also participated in a number of international exercises, including Bersama Lima and Bersama Shield in Malaysia, Cope North in Guam, Red Flag in Alaska and Rim of the Pacific in Hawaii.

Source: Flight International