Boeing is gearing up to begin mission and radar system tests on the 737-700-based airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft for Australia’s Project Wedgetail, after successfully completing performance and flight-handling tests in Arizona and California.

The aircraft “exceeded all specification requirements for altitude, speed and endurance”, says Boeing, which conducted take-off performance, flight-handling and simulated air-to-air refuelling tests at Edwards AFB, California. Engine nacelle and component cooling tests were done at Mesa, Arizona.

The tests, including evaluations of avionics, structure, flight-handling characteristics and performance, were conducted over 245 flights and more than 500 flight hours. Initial airworthiness tests were interrupted for modifications to the fuselage crown-mounted Northrop Grumman multirole electronically scanned array radar (Flight International, 11-17 January).

Completion of the tests is opportune for Boeing, which is preparing to resubmit the aircraft for a new tender in South Korea’s long-delayed E-X programme. Boeing and Israel Aircraft Industries are expected to bid for the purchase of four AEW&C aircraft.

One of the two development aircraft is expected to visit the Seoul air show in October.

The Royal Australian Air Force will take delivery of its first two Wedgetail aircraft in late November 2006, with four more to follow by the end of 2008. Turkey’s air force is to receive its first two examples in 2007, and its other two aircraft on order will follow in 2008. Boeing will modify the first three in Seattle, with the remaining platform to be integrated by Tusas Aerospace Industries.


Source: Flight International