2015-01-12 For the first time, the new Australian airborne early warning and C2 aircraft is operating in combat.
Australia’s Air Task Group (ATG) consisting of six RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft continue to support Operation OKRA with missions in Iraq.
The ATG comprises nearly 400 RAAF personnel who have deployed to the Middle East. Australia’s efforts are in response to a request for assistance by the Iraqi Government in combating ISIL terrorists.
Operation OKRA is the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the international effort to combat the ISIL terrorist threat in Iraq. Australia’s contribution is being closely coordinated with the Iraqi government, Gulf nations and a broad coalition of international partners.
During the Second Line of Defense to Australia in the first quarter of 2014, a visit was made to 2nd squadron and a visit to the Wedgetail. The squadron CO was asked about the Wedgetail and its status for combat:
What is the current state of play with regard to the Wedgetail?
According to the Squadron Commander, the system is “on the books” and ready to go to serve Australian needs and to contribute to coalition defense.
The Squadron Commander highlighted that the message going forward with the squadron was three fold: grow, integrate and prepare. Growth meant simply to fill out the squadron and enhance its operational capabilities. Integrate meant to build the squadron’s ability to work within the battlespace, to work effectively with the other Aussie forces and with coalition partners. Prepare for the system will always be evolving.
The always evolving part of it is not widely appreciated.
This is a software upgradeable aircraft with a defined launch point (IOC) but no fixed end point (FOC). The system will always be evolving and growing as the software code gets rewritten to reflect events and demands from the squadron.
The squadron works through its experience and shapes change orders which get sent to the procurement authorities to sort out priorities for the next round of upgrading the aircraft.
For our Special Report on Australian Airpower modernization see the following: