Boeing has taken an additional $274 million charge in its fourth-quarter 2006 results as it reveals Australia's Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) programme has slipped further. The launch customer for the 737-based system will now not accept the first of its six aircraft on order until March 2009 - two years later than originally planned - while Boeing says it has put in place a "good solid plan" designed to resolve integration problems.

Boeing took a $496 million charge against its second-quarter earnings last year to cover an earlier round of programme delays that saw first delivery slip to August 2008. The latest change follows Boeing and its partners taking a comprehensive look at the programme, reorganising it and developing a more realistic schedule, says Maureen Dougherty, Boeing vice-president 737 AEW&C programmes. Australia is now to receive all six aircraft by the end of 2009, says Dougherty, with initial operational capability unlikely until mid-2010, says Air Vice Marshal Chris Deeble, AEW&C programme manager for Australia's Defence Materiel Organisation.

The "extremely complex programme" has suffered "hardware and software challenges" and integration issues, says Dougherty. The problems have centred on the Northrop Grumman multirole electronically scanned array radar, integrating a datalink into the mission system and upgrading the electronic warfare and support measures systems.

Boeing has implemented a reorganisation, added expertise, conducted detailed reviews of its partners and devised a more detailed integration schedule that includes "trip wire indicators" to highlight when the programme is "going off plan", says Dougherty.

The radar is the first of its kind and has proved challenging, she says, but a plan is in place to mature the radar that is already delivering results.

Source: Flight International