DURING A combined Boeing and Royal Air Force media briefing at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, om July 15, a digital rendering of the proposed colour scheme for the RAF’s three new E-7 Wedgetail AEW1 aircraft was officially unveiled.
The type will be operated by VIII Squadron and based in Scotland at RAF Lossiemouth, Moray. The aircraft will be painted in an overall grey scheme, while the tail fin will be adorned with the Squadron’s Arabian dagger emblem. The dagger, known as a jambiya, was adopted in recognition of the unit’s long association with Arabia and is sheathed to symbolize the Squadron’s guardian duties. On the nose will be the shield of the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force, reflecting the UK’s commitment to continue to provide the Alliance with air surveillance, command and control, aerospace battle management and communications.
Air Commodore Alex Hicks, Wedgetail Programme Senior Responsible Owner, said: “It is great to see the jambiya of VIII Squadron and the NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Force shield brought to life on the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning Mk1 livery, which reflects our continued commitment to NATO, and marks a significant step in delivery of this capability.”
The Wedgetail AEW1, which is being procured for the Royal Air Force by Defence Equipment and Support from Boeing, provides long-range air surveillance and control of an area of operations. It uses a Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array and on-board passive systems to collect information to provide the crew with a real-time picture of aircraft and ships present across a broad area of responsibility. The crew use this information to provide direction and guidance to aircraft and commanders on the ground.
The then UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson signed a $1.98Bn deal to purchase five E-7 aircraft on March 21, 2019, to replace the since retired E-3D Sentry AEW1 fleet. In May 2020 Boeing selected UK-based STS Aviation Services at Birmingham International Airport to undertake the conversion work. Budget cuts have now reduced the acquisition to just three airframes, comprising conversion of two second hand commercial airframes and delivery of one new production aircraft.