Second Boeing 737 arrives in the UK for Wedgetail conversion

A second Boeing 737 has been delivered to the UK for conversion to E-7A Wedgetail AEW1 airborne early warning and control configuration for the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The second-hand airframe, 2011-built 737-73W Boeing Business Jet - registration N947BC (c/n 40117, ex 2-BASG, VP-BOP and N449BJ) - was ferried from San Bernadino International Airport, California, to Bangor International Airport, Maine, using callsign ‘BOE130’, on September 14.

Wedgetail AEW1 [MoD Crown Copyright/Royal Air Force]
A digital rendering depicting what the Boeing 737-based Wedgetail AEW1 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft will look like in RAF service. The type is scheduled to enter service in 2023, with three examples on order. MOD Crown Copyright/Royal Air Force

It then continued on September 16 to Birmingham Airport in the UK, where Wedgetail conversion will be undertaken by STS Aviation Services. The US civil registration was cancelled on September 30 as it was transferred to UK ownership.

As previously reported, the first airframe for conversion, 737-73W - registration N946BC (c/n 38633) - arrived at Birmingham on January 6. Its registration was cancelled on March 24 following its transfer to the UK Ministry of Defence. Boeing UK announced on April 6 that the UK Military Aviation Authority had given approval for work on modification of this first aircraft to begin.

The Wedgetail is set to replace the recently retired Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW1, but will not enter service until 2023, leaving a capability gap for the next two years. Despite original plans to acquire five Wedgetails, it was announced in the Defence Command Paper on March 22 that just three of the type will now be acquired.