By Bettina Mears
Important Defence industry partnerships and a culture of excellence have been key to the operational effectiveness of Air Force’s highly advanced airborne early warning and control capability – the E-7A Wedgetail – now celebrating 10 years since its introduction into RAAF service.
Air Force operates six E-7A Wedgetail aircraft from RAAF Base Williamtown, which provide Australia with one of the most advanced air battlespace management capabilities in the world.
Based on a Boeing 737-700, the E-7A Wedgetail combines long-range surveillance radar, secondary radar, passive detection surveillance receivers and tactical/strategic voice and data communications systems. This provides the Australian Defence Force with its ability to survey, command, control and coordinate a joint air, sea and land battle in real time.
As the sole operating squadron for the platform, Commanding Officer of Number 2 Squadron, Wing Commander Jason Brown, said over the past 10 years the E-7A fleet had been regularly dispersed around the world supporting concurrent exercises and operations, often with all aircraft deployed simultaneously with mission success.
“As commanding officer during this significant milestone, it is a great honour and I am immensely proud of what has been achieved by the squadron, not only during my command but historically, at home and abroad,” Wing Commander Brown said.
Major contributions since the E-7A’s introduction into RAAF service include Operations Spate, Atlas and APEC Assist; providing concurrent support for Operation Okra; and achieving a high mission success rate with No. 2 Squadron E-7A maintenance and aircrew in support of the US-led coalition operations.
“At Operation Okra, the RAAF E-7A Wedgetail had responsibility for the command and control of all coalition aircraft in a ‘battle management area’ and crews regularly managed more than 80 combat aircraft during a single mission,” Wing Commander Brown said.
“RAAF E-7A crews have also conducted record-breaking endurance sorties for their aircraft type.
“In an integrated force, the E-7A shared information with other coalition aircraft, which allowed the force to have situational awareness across air, land and sea domains. The E-7A Wedgetail provided a force multiplier effect, not only for RAAF but for all participating nations.”
With many operational milestones and achievements to reflect on, 2020 also represents a significant year for No. 2 Squadron association members, with some marking the 50th anniversary of their service contribution to the Vietnam conflict.
“In an integrated force, the E-7A shared information with other coalition aircraft, which allowed the force to have situational awareness across air, land and sea domains.”
No. 2 Squadron was awarded a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and a United States Air Force Outstanding Unit Commendation. It also received a US Presidential Unit Citation for service in World War II.
“The women and men of No. 2 Squadron continue to honour this legacy and are proven operators in a cohesive and agile team environment and their important contributions have provided Air Force with an advanced, highly capable airborne early warning and control platform that is the envy of armed forces worldwide,” Wing Commander Brown said.
“The ability to perform with excellence, consistently achieving a high rate of serviceability under diverse, demanding and complex conditions is a direct result of our personnel’s professionalism and dedication to duty.”
The squadron’s efforts have also been acknowledged with the 2018 Duke of Gloucester Cup for outstanding achievement as “the RAAF’s most proficient flying unit” supporting E-7A operations.
The important partnerships and successful collaboration with the Airborne Early Warning and Control System Program Office (Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group) and Defence industry partners, including Boeing Defence Australia, have been a key contributing factor to the effectiveness and operational success of the platform – from its introduction into RAAF service to the continual sustainment and contribution to the Australian Defence Force capability at home and abroad, as called upon by government.
Boeing Defence Australia’s vice president and managing director Scott Carpendale said it was a partnership that continued to deliver successful outcomes for the Australian Defence Force, ensuring the highest levels of aircraft availability and mission readiness.
“We have built deep sovereign capability and are exceptionally proud of our contribution to the development and ongoing delivery of critical upgrades and sustainment for this world-class capability,” Mr Carpendale said.
Australian Department of Defence
Featured Photo: Maintenance and aircrew from Rotation 14 with the RAAF E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.