Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, left, and German Chancellor Olaf Schultz, right, speak to the press July 10, 2023. AP Photo/Marcus Schreiber
“The deployment of the E-7A Wedgetail as an additional early warning capability will help ensure that vital support flows into Ukraine are protected by the international community,” said Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marliss.
in a subsequent press release About the upcoming deployment of the E-7A. Australia is committed to ensuring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russia’s encroachment on the rules-based order.
“The Australian Defense Force (ADF) will deploy a Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail aircraft to Germany for approximately six months from October to help protect a vital gateway for international humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine,” the statement added. This deployment includes up to 100 crew members and support personnel.
“The deployment of the E-7A Wedgetail will complement the efforts of our partners, including the United States, and support the multilayered protection that is in place to assist in Ukraine,” she continued. “No ADF personnel or assets will enter Ukraine throughout this deployment and the aircraft will not participate in the current conflict in Ukraine. The E-7A will operate outside of Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian airspace.”
The E-7A, which is based on a Next Generation 737-700 airframe, provides “an integrated, combat-proven, flexible command and control node that provides multi-domain awareness in the most challenging operational environments,” according to its manufacturer, Boeing. At the core of the E-7A is Northrop Grumman’s Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) sensor, which provides simultaneous 360-degree coverage of airborne and seaborne threats. Wedgetail also has strong communications and data sharing capabilities that allow it to pass relevant information to other friendly assets in the air, as well as at sea and on the ground. You can read more about the E-7A and its capabilities in detail in the past
war zone feature.
It is not yet clear where the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) E-7A will operate. However, the Geilenkirchen Air Base in Germany is the home of NATO
Its own multinational aviation unit American-made E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). The Wedgetail is significantly more modern and capable than the Sentry, but both aircraft are designed to perform the same general tasks of monitoring air threats and managing friendly aircraft activities.
However, the specific indication that the Australian E-7A mission will focus on ensuring that military and humanitarian aid reaches Ukraine safely is intriguing. Russian officials routinely even threaten to hit Western aid shipments
outside the Ukrainian territory. Although Russian forces have not followed through on any of these threats, and doing so would risk direct conflict with NATO, Australia’s announcement suggests that rhetoric has not been completely ruled out.
Within Ukraine, Russia has proven largely unable to intercept the flow of Western arms from western Ukraine to the front lines. As we noted when the conflict erupted, Russia lacks the stand-off surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as the kill chains needed to quickly strike dynamic, time-sensitive targets. The fact that Ukraine denied air superiority to Russia greatly exaggerated this shortfall. As such, other than striking suspected static stockpiles, Russia has no proven ability to destroy Western aid being moved from the border to the front.
However, the E-7 will provide the most advanced air threat early warning capability available. This is especially true of long-range cruise missiles and drones, both of which are Russia’s best weapons for striking deep into western Ukraine. The E-7 is the best aircraft in the world to accomplish this challenging surveillance mission, and assisting it can help in a number of ways, including helping Ukrainian air defenders detect and deal with incoming threats.
A US Air Force E-3G Sentry, in the rear, along with a Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail, in the foreground. USAF
Separately, NATO is in the process
Identify a possible alternative for its own fleet of 14 aging E-3s, which are due to retire in 2035. The E-7A is one possible option as a successor to the NATO Sentry, with Saab’s GlobalEye Another possible option. Having the Wedgetail based in Germany for actual operations could give NATO officials a good opportunity to assess that aircraft and refine their future requirements for airborne early warning and surveillance.
Regardless, one of Australia’s E-7As is now expected to arrive in Germany in just a few months to actively help ensure that military and other aid continues to flow uninterrupted to Ukraine.
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