Greg Combet, Minister for Defence Materiel and Science, today accepted the first two Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft at RAAF Base Williamtown in Newcastle.
“The two surveillance aircraft will significantly increase Australia’s surveillance capabilities and, as outlined in the Rudd Government’s Defence White Paper, the Wedgetail will be critical in supporting our future ADF,” Mr Combet said.
“Wedgetail aircraft will provide the ADF with the capability to maintain surveillance over a surface area of 400,000 square kilometres at any one time – that is an area 5 times as big as Tasmania.
“Over a 10 hour mission the Wedgetail’s sophisticated mission systems and advanced radar will be able to cover four million square kilometres in surveillance, with its primary task being to detect air threats and coordinate our air defence.
“The Wedgetail project has suffered problems, especially in regards to schedule, and has been on the Government’s ‘projects of concern’ list.”
“This project was experiencing a variety of problems when the Government was elected but we have put a lot of work into getting it back on track,” Mr Combet said.
“Over a decade since the project first started it is finally now ready to be used for Air Force training. I congratulate all parties, including the Department, Air Force and the Wedgetail’s manufacturer Boeing who have got us to this point.
“This is good news, although there are still a number of hurdles to overcome. Defence will continue to work alongside Boeing to support the ramp up of training and the final delivery of all six completed aircraft.
“The Royal Australian Air Force will now commence formal training and building operational capability over the next 12 months.
“It is expected the new aircraft will aid the ADF in providing support for our naval fleet, assist in search and rescue and border protection.”
Mr Combet said the Wedgetail project has also benefited local industry and local jobs.
“The Wedgetail project will not only boost the nation’s defence capabilities but it has benefited local industry and will support 200 local jobs in the sustainment phase of the project.”