Unworkable Wedgetail radar may kill off $3.5b aircraft deal

November 27th, 2008  

Topic: Unworkable Wedgetail radar may kill off $3.5b aircraft deal

AUSTRALIA'S most troubled defence project, the $3.5 billion purchase of six early warning aircraft, is more than four years late and could collapse.

Things are so bad that US radar experts have been called in to assess whether the vital Project Wedgetail will get off the ground.

Senior military officers have admitted the prime contractor, US giant Boeing, and its sub-contractors have no idea how to fix the main problem - an unworkable radar system.

Without the radar, the planes, which are vital for detecting incoming hostile aircraft and directing a battle, would be virtually useless.

Program manager Air Vice-Marshal Chris Deeble told a Senate inquiry the first modified Boeing 737 aircraft would not be delivered until at least 2011, more than four years behind schedule.

Last year, Boeing promised to deliver the first plane next year, but later shifted it back to 2010.

Air Vice-Marshal Deeble's frank admission is the first indication of even greater problems.

"I believe that we could, if we worked through some of these significant issues, look at initial operational capability at around the end of 2011 and a full operational capability around 2012," he told the Senate.

Air Vice-Marshal Deeble qualified his timetable by saying it depended on solving the technical issues with the MESA radar built by US firm Northrop Grumman.

The radar is the centrepiece of the Wedgetail airborne early warning and control system.

It will be housed inside a large dorsal fin on the aircraft's roof and is supposed to allow operators to conduct simultaneous air and sea searches, control fighter planes and conduct area searches.

In a desperate bid for answers, the Defence Materiel Organisation has contracted the world-leading independent radar house MIT Lincoln Lab to investigate.

"That will be important for us to understand the baseline performance and any path forward for remediation of any shortfall of the radar," Air Vice-Marshal Deeble told the Senate.

He was confident the project team would eventually provide the RAAF with six workable aircraft, but had no idea how long that would take.

The RAAF is the first air force to use the MESA radar and therefore the guinea pig for a new system.

Boeing has declared forward losses of $1.5 billion on the global project.


November 27th, 2008  

Topic: Radar

I knew I saw something on this I posted:
Defence project suffers further delays

Were talking big money and I didn't know the RAAF is the first air force to use the MESA radar and therefore the guinea pig for a new system. Are any other countries lining up to buy this system/setup? If they are I'm sure there wait until problems are fixed.

I don't follow AWACS and transports much as far as other aviation topic go even know I see C-17s and other transports daily flying over my job. Every now and then a passing F-16 and once a pair of A-10s. Those C-17 really bank sharply I guess having a hud helps.
November 27th, 2008  
I don't know what the deal is with RAAF's birds but Turkey's Wedgetails are coming along rather smoothly.

A total of four Boeing 737 AEW&C Peace Eagle aircraft (along with ground support systems) were ordered by the Turkish Air Force, with an option for two more. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is the primary subcontractor for the Peace Eagle parts production, aircraft modification, assembly and tests. Another subcontractor, Havelsan, is responsible for system analysis and software support.

Peace Eagle 1 is modified and tested by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, WA, USA. Peace Eagle 2, 3 and 4 are modified and tested at the facilities of TAI in Ankara, Turkey, with the participation of Boeing and a number of Turkish companies. As of 2006, the four Peace Eagle airplanes were scheduled to be delivered in 2008.[6] As of mid-2007, systems integration was ongoing and airworthiness certification works continued. In September 2007, Boeing completed the first test flight of Turkey's AEW&C 737.

On June 4, 2008, it was announced that the Turkish Aerospace Industries had completed modifications to Peace Eagle 2, the second 737 AEW&C aircraft at TAI's facilities in Turkey. Completion of checks on flight and mission systems is expected in the third quarter of 2008.


Of course, the Turkish versions will use Turkish-made sub-electronics and support systems along with Northrop's MESA. I don't know how they worked out the technical difficulties, but apperantly TuAF will have to endure the least amount of delay. Boing will have to reimburse Turkey for at least a couple of years though.

I want to know how the Koreans are doing on their birds. They ordered 4.

December 1st, 2008  
A Can of Man
They're not due until 2012 so anything's possible.

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