Wedgetail e-7 radar DATE 05122022 CREDIT RAF.jpg
Three RAF E-7 Wedgetail surveillance aircraft have been pictured after they were moved outside and into view (Picture: RAF).
Aircraft

Pictures reveal the RAF's latest surveillance aircraft fleet being built

Wedgetail e-7 radar DATE 05122022 CREDIT RAF.jpg
Three RAF E-7 Wedgetail surveillance aircraft have been pictured after they were moved outside and into view (Picture: RAF).

Three Royal Air Force E-7 Wedgetail surveillance aircraft have been pictured after they were moved outside and into view during an aircraft hangar reshuffle.

Images posted to Twitter show the UK's new Wedgetail AEW Mk1 airborne early warning and control aircraft starting to take shape.

The repurposed 737-airliner aircrafts are being fitted with the Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) Surveillance Radar – supplied by Northrop Grumman – the manufacturer also responsible for building the B-21 Raider long-range stealth bomber.

The Royal Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Twitter account posted the images, with the caption: "Progress on our three future Wedgetail AEW Mk1 airborne early warning and control aircraft continues apace in Birmingham.

"A hangar reorganisation saw all three outside this week, the first now sporting a Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array sensor."

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Three of the new RAF E-7 Wedgetail surveillance aircraft pictured in Birmingham (Picture: RAF).

The MESA radar is said to provide 360° coverage and can accurately detect and identify targets at longer ranges.

The RAF is due to receive the first aircraft in 2023 for the design, test and evaluation phase, prior to the start of the operational training phase in 2024.

In 2019, then-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson signed a £1.5bn deal to purchase five E-7 Wedgetail aircraft, designed to replace the E-3D Sentry aircraft as the UK's Airborne Early Warning and Control capability.

What is the E-7 'Wedgetail' aircraft?

The E-7 Wedgetail is based on a standard Boeing 737 airliner aircraft.

The Wedgetail, however, is modified, and it carries a Northrop Grumman Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) surveillance radar and a sophisticated mission computer system.

The radar is operationally ready minutes after take-off and it can cover 4,000,000 sq km over a 10-hour period, meaning it can track multiple targets simultaneously.

Information gathered by E-7s would be used by the Armed Forces to provide situational awareness and direct other assets such as fighter jets or warships.