NATO, gearing up for the retirement of its existing AWACS fleet, greenlights the production of six Boeing E-7A Wedgetail aircraft. 

This consortium-approved project milestone marks a leap in the alliance’s airborne command and control capabilities.

With production expected to commence in the coming years and the first aircraft expected to be operational by 2031, this decision is a substantial capability investment for NATO. In a show of commitment, the consortium of Allies recently greenlit this project.

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg underscored the importance of these surveillance and control aircraft for the alliance’s defense. “Surveillance and control aircraft are crucial for NATO’s collective defence, and I welcome Allies’ commitment to investing in high-end capabilities. 

By pooling resources, Allies can buy and operate major assets collectively that would be too expensive for individual countries to purchase. This investment in state-of-the-art technology shows the strength of transatlantic defence cooperation as we continue to adapt to a more unstable world”.

The E-7A Wedgetail, known for its advanced early warning and control capabilities, has a radar system capable of detecting hostile aircraft, missiles, and ships over distances. This aircraft will play a role in NATO’s future defence strategy, directing fighter jets to potential threats. 

Notably, the United Statesthe United Kingdom, and Turkey either currently operate or plan to adopt the Wedgetail, emphasising its global recognition.

Australia recently supported Ukraine by deploying an E-7A Wedgetail aircraft to Germany, aimed at safeguarding the vital gateway for humanitarian aid and military assistance to Ukraine. 

NATO has long relied on its fleet of E-3A Airborne Warning and Control (AWACS) aircraft based in Germany. These AWACS aircraft have been instrumental in NATO operations, including counter-ISIS efforts and response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The shift to the E-7A Wedgetail signifies a new chapter, with Geilenkirchen airbase in Germany expected to serve as the main operating base. Additionally, the Wedgetail may operate from multiple forward locations across Europe, enhancing NATO’s flexibility and coverage.

The E-7A Wedgetail is set to become a cornerstone of the alliance’s future surveillance and control project, slated to introduce NATO’s next generation of surveillance systems in the mid-2030s. This marks a step forward for NATO.