Boeing 737 AEW&C

Boeing 737 AEW&C

The Boeing 737 AEW&C is a twin-engine airborne early warning and control aircraft based on the Boeing 737 Next Generation design. It is lighter than the 707-based Boeing E-3 Sentry, and has a fixed, active electronically scanned array radar antenna instead of a rotating one. It was designed for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) under “Project Wedgetail” and designated E-7A Wedgetail.

The 737 AEW&C has also been selected by the Turkish Air Force (under “Project Peace Eagle”, Turkish: Barış Kartalı, designated E-7T), the Republic of Korea Air Force (“Project Peace Eye”, Korean: “피스 아이”), and the United Kingdom (designated Wedgetail AEW1). It has also been proposed to Italy and the United Arab Emirates.

Design and development

In the 1990s, Australia recognized a need for an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. In 1996, Australia issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the aircraft for the RAAF under Project Wedgetail, referring to the Wedge-tailed eagle. In 1999, Australia awarded Boeing Integrated Defense Systems a contract to supply four AEW&C aircraft with options for three additional aircraft.

The 737 AEW&C is roughly similar to the 737-700ER. It uses the Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar. The electronically scanned AEW and surveillance radar is located on a dorsal fin on top of the fuselage, dubbed the “top hat”, and is designed for minimal aerodynamic effect. The radar is capable of simultaneous air and sea search, fighter control and area search, with a maximum range of over 600 km (look-up mode). In addition, the radar antenna array is also doubled as an ELINT array, with a maximum range of over 850 km at 9,000 metres (30,000 ft) altitude. Radar signal processing equipment and central computer are installed directly below the antenna array.

Other modifications include ventral fins to counterbalance the radar and countermeasures mounted on the nose, wingtips and tail. In-flight refueling is via a receptacle on top of the forward fuselage. The cabin features eight operator consoles with sufficient space for four more; the Australian fleet will operate ten consoles with space for two more (four on starboard side and six on the port side).

Specifications

Crew 6 – 10
Length 110 ft 4 in (33.6 m)
Wingspan 117 ft 2 in (35.8 m)
Heigh 41 ft 2 in (12.5 m)
Wing area 980 sq ft (91 m2)
Empty weight 102,750 lb (46,606 kg)
Gross weight
Max take off weight 171,000 lb (77,600 kg)
Power plant (Dry thrust)
2 × CFM International CFM56-7B27A turbofans, 27,300 lbf (121 kN) thrust each
Power plant (Thrust with afterburner) 
Maximum speed (Sea level)
Maximum speed (High altitude) 530 mph (853 km/h, 460 kn)
Combat radius
Ferry range
4,000 mi (6,500 km, 3,500 nmi)
Service ceiling
41,000 ft (12,500 m)
Rate of climb
Wing loading
Thrust/weight
Design load factor

Avionics

  • Northrop Grumman multi-role active electronically scanned array radar

Operators

  • Royal Australian Air Force – 6 in use. The type is designated “E-7A Wedgetail” by Australia.
  • Republic of Korea Air Force – 4 aircraft in use. The ROK Air Force is considering ordering 2-3 additional Peace Eye aircraft.
  • Turkish Air Force – 4 “E-7T” aircraft in use.
  • Royal Air Force – five aircraft on order; designated “Wedgetail AEW1”
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