The US Department of Air Force (DAF) has awarded a contract to Boeing to develop the E-7A airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft prototype.

Awarded through an undefinitised contract action, the initial agreement has a ceiling value of $1.2bn.

Through this award, the DAF is using the rapid prototyping acquisition procedures to procure the first two E-7A aircraft.

Production is expected to commence in fiscal year (FY) 2025, with the first aircraft to be fielded by FY2027.

Once the first two aircraft are fielded, the DAF is planning to acquire around 24 additional E-7A planes from Boeing by FY2032.

The US Air Force (USAF) specified that the total number of aircraft in the service’s inventory will be 26.

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USAF acquisition, technology and logistics assistant secretary Andrew Hunter said: “The rapid prototyping programme will integrate US-based mission systems into the existing airborne platform to meet DAF requirements while simultaneously ensuring interoperability with the coalition and allied partners already operating E-7A.”

The latest announcement comes around 11 months after the USAF announced its decision to select Boeing’s E-7 aircraft to replace the service’s E-3 Sentry fleet.

In a separate development, Boeing Defence Australia has proposed its T-7 advanced trainer to provide live and realistic virtual simulation training to the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) future combat pilots.

Announced during Avalon 2023 Australian International Airshow, the trainer platform can be used for training pilots of different aircraft, including F/A-18F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and F-35 fighter aircraft.

Boeing Defence Australia vice-president and managing director Scott Carpendale said: “The T-7 would fit right into pilot training and aircraft sustainment our team currently provides for ADF.

“Because the US and Australia already have a high degree of interoperability due to flying similar aircraft types, an Australian T-7 could lead to new joint training scenarios between the two countries.”