Wedgetail. Another saga of naïve contracting?

It boggles and saddens the mind that Defence, the launch customer for the supply of an airborne early warning and control capability for Australia, and the supplier Boeing, have failed to perform satisfactorily on this critically important program for the defence of Australia.

3rd Feb 2010


Wedgetail. Another saga of naïve contracting?

It boggles and saddens the mind that Defence, the launch customer for the supply of an airborne early warning and control capability for Australia, and the supplier Boeing, have failed to perform satisfactorily on this critically important program for the defence of Australia. The delivery program is in tatters and Boeing’s regular admissions of delay, under pressure from Defence and the Government, have stripped away any confidence that the latest schedule will be held and in particular that the end product will perform to the contracted requirements. To exacerbate this situation, Defence appears to have agreed with the de facto acceptance plan to provide two aircraft that will not be fully operational, for flight training of RAAF operational crews - with the proviso that the aircraft will be piloted by Boeing pilots. Finally, issuing the operational version of the system software still appears to be some two years away.

Considering Boeing’s poor track record for the delivery of HF Modernisation and Vigilaire it is simply astounding that Defence allowed this project to continue, despite Boeing’s payment of liquidated damages for non-performance.

Meanwhile, on the back of the RAAF program, Turkey has signed up for four aircraft (with an option for a further six) of the Wedgetail design, but using EADS system software. Korea has also signed for a similar capability. Curiously, the delivery timescale for both of these programs is reportedly ahead of Australia’s. Boeing is also assiduously wooing Italy and the UAE. So, at Australia’s expense, Boeing is likely to eventually recover its losses - but maybe that’s the price to be paid for being the launch customer.

Program timeline

This section lists the progress made on the Australian AEW&C program with dates where possible. There are also recorded events but without dates where establishing them has not been possible using publicly available information. Care has been taken to make this timeline as accurate as the public data permits, but the “bottom line” is that Boeing IDS has simply not been capable of acceptable management of this program.

1996 Since Project Wedgetail commenced, Boeing Australia has played a key role in all aspects of activity, from concept definition through to the initial design activity, training, infrastructure development and logistics support. (Boeing statement)

December 2000 Boeing International Defence Systems (IDS) was awarded the prime contract after a 3-way competition for four aircraft with options for up to three more. The contract also provided for a complex Mission Support Segment and other associated ground based segments necessary for flight and mission crew training. The platform selected is the Boeing 737-300, “Next-Gen” with Increased Gross Weight that has been extensively modified for the role. The contract was valued at more than AUD $2 billion with an original delivery date in 2006. Northrop Grumman is a major subcontractor for the supply of the new MESA electronically scanned radar.

17 May 2001 Under an AUD $400 million agreement with Boeing IDS, BAE Systems Australia was selected as a “key in-country partner” for development, supply and support of the electronic support system (ESM), electronic warfare self protection systems (EWSP) for the aircraft and an operational mission simulator (OMS), mission support segment (MSS) as part of the AEW&C support facility. None of the aircraft EW systems selected were of BAE Systems origin; hence its role was primarily that of an EW systems’ integrator and supplier of ground support systems.

February 2002 Northrop Grumman Electronic Sensors was awarded the contract to provide the AN/AAQ-24(V) Nemesis Directional Infra Red Countermeasures (DIRCM) system, augmented with the Viper solid state multiband laser.

December 2002 The first airframe was rolled out ready for modification and installation of the radar and systems.

12 Jan 2004 BAE Systems Australia successfully completed three major design reviews for Project Wedgetail - on schedule and within budget. These reviews followed four reviews held earlier for the Wedgetail Electronic Warfare and Ground Support Segments, and reportedly demonstrated the continued development of the design baseline for the AEW&C EW system.

September 2003 BAE Systems completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for the AEW&C Support Facility (ASF).

November 2003 BAE Systems completed Critical Design Reviews (CDRs) for the Ground Support Segments: Operational Mission Simulator (OMS) and the Mission Support Segment (MSS). Successful completion of these CDRs released production approval for the two segments. Air Vice Marshal Norm Gray, RAAF, head of the AEW&C program said: “Completion of the OMS and MSS Critical Design Reviews on schedule is pleasing as on-time delivery of these Segments is essential for timely realisation of the AEW&C Capability”.

No date recorded Delivery by BAE Systems of the Build 4 software for integration in Boeing’s integration laboratory (in the USA).

May 2004

1.Australia exercised options to purchase an additional two aircraft of the three options quoted in the initial contract.
2.First flight of the aircraft with the radar and mission systems took place at the Boeing Field in Seattle

July 2005 Performance and flight handling tests completed

January 2006 The first aircraft for modification in Australia arrived in country.

June 29 2006 The then Australian Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, announced that Boeing had recently informed the Australian Government that the Wedgetail project had fallen behind schedule. This was contrary to Boeing’s public insistence that the project was actually on track.

No date recorded Boeing announced that it had taken $770 million in charges in 2006 for the delays in the delivery of operational aircraft. A contributor to this delay was the MESA radar that reportedly suffered from stability and integration problems.

September 2007 Boeing IDS, working through the recovery plan it has developed in partnership with the DMO - and after announcing a two-year program slippage early the previous year - announced that the first two operational aircraft will be delivered to the RAAF in early 2009. The remaining four will be in RAAF hands undergoing acceptance by the end of that year. (The first two aircraft were re-scheduled for delivery at the start of 2007).

June 20 2008 Boeing announced a further delay to the Australian program due primarily, it was reported, to integration of the radar and Electronic Support Measures (ESM) systems. Boeing now hopes to deliver the first aircraft in July 2009 and work on the aircraft in Australia to achieve full capability in "early" 2010.

March 16 2009 Boeing demonstrated control of 3 ScanEagle UAS from the Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft.

July 2009 Boeing announced a new delivery schedule based on the delivery the first aircraft in July 2009 and work on the aircraft in Australia to achieve full capability in "early" 2010.

November 26 2009 The Royal Australian Air Force “accepted” (?) the first two AEW&C aircraft. And, by the end of 2010 three additional Wedgetail aircraft are scheduled to be delivered followed in 2011 by the delivery of the “final” software suite.

A Future activity.

The date for the final acceptance of the aircraft and all contracted facilities by the RAAF appears not to have been published. Considering the complexity of this task and Wedgetail’s interaction with other defence assets such as Vigilaire and JORN, it is estimated that final acceptance is likely to take three years after the last suite of software has been delivered, installed and fully tested. The RAAF will further be disadvantaged by the fact that the System Integration Facility is located at Boeing, reducing its access to the Commonwealth and the fact is that such a facility will be required for other customers. It is also conjectured that final acceptance of the contracted build standard will be blurred by the necessary onset of a spiral development program, particularly the mission software, as the elapsed time from contract award and delivery of the final AEW&C capability may be as long as 15 years.

Moral to the story: Never be the launch customer on a complex project.

Technical issues.

Aircraft

The Boeing offer was based on the adoption of a Boeing 737-700 “Nex-Gen” Increased Gross Weight Business Jet. The airframe has been extensively modified to carry the Northrop Grumman innovative Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) fixed antenna phased array radar, an Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system for long range detection and identification of RF energy sources, an Electronic Warfare Self-Protection (EWSP) suite, ten sophisticated mission crew multi-function display consoles and a comprehensive suite of datalinks and communications Payload integration will be achieved using multiple open architecture digital data busses.

General characteristics (unconfirmed)

*Crew: Flight:2, Mission:8-10
*Payload: 19,830kg
*Length: 33.6 m
*Wingspan: 35.8m
*Height: 12.5m
*Wing area: 91m²
*Airfoil: B737D
*Empty weight: 46,606kg
*Max takeoff weight: 77,564kg
*Powerplant: 2× CFM International CFM56-7B27A turbofans, 118 kN each

Performance (unconfirmed)

*Cruise speed: 460kts
*Range: 7,040 km (unrefueled)
*Service ceiling: 12,500m
*Time on station: >8 hours

Airframe modifications

There are a large number of modifications to the airframe structure, including:

*the removal of a large section of the fuselage, known as section 46, and its replacement with a reinforced section to enable the installation of the 3 tonne MESA fixed phased array antenna assembly on top of a dorsal “fin“ to the rear of the fuselage.
*the addition of two ventral fins to aerodynamically compensate for the radar antenna assembly and counter-balance the EW suite installation.
*Modification of the wingtip, nose and tail structure to accommodate the ALR-2001 ESM antennae and EWSP systems (fuselage).
*Modification of the fuel system including the addition of Aerial Refueling and Fuel Jettison capabilities.
*Installation of the mission system electronics cabinets and operator consoles The Australian configuration is for ten consoles, with space for two more.

Aircraft Number 3 and onward are modified by Boeing Australia Limited.

Description of systems

MESA radar

The MESA phased array is a Northrop Grumman product that has evolved from a long history of development of radars for military aircraft.

The agility and controllability of the beam of an electronically scanned radar is a key performance characteristic. This feature, combined with the tremendous growth in computing power for processing radar information and presenting that data using advanced human machine interface techniques for decision making assures superior total performance in all airborne applications.

Development

Beginning in 1988 prototypes of the Multirole Electronically Scanned Array Radar/IFF were developed with a high gain, electronically steerable, 360 degree coverage and low side lobe performance antenna being primary objectives. Other highly important features of the new radar were:

• Interleaved air-to-air and maritime modes

• Long-range detection

• Dedicated track/high-update rate modes

• Integrated IFF

*Robust ECCM capability

*Open architecture system, using standard busses (Ethernet and 1553), COTS processors and COTS modular software where suitable

• Lightweight, efficient aerodynamic design antenna

• High reliability, maintainability and availability

Wedgetail Application

In 2000 the contract for the 737 AEW&C MESA Radar was awarded and in 2002 the first Full Scale MESA Radar/IFF Antenna was produced. Noteworthy is the embodiment of the IFF capability in the radar. By any standard, the development period was short, considering the performance requirements and aircraft installation design - although much of the expertise applied was derived from the earlier E-3 Sentry AWACS “rotodrome” radar that is still in wide service. But integration of the radar with other missions systems generated significant problems. Concerned with this situation, Defence recently sought the opinion of world-leading analysts Lincoln Laboratories who, it is understood, gave the radar a conditional clean bill of health.

Electronically Scanned Antenna operational modes

The MESA radar antenna has a number of important operational modes made possible by the design of the antenna which contains vertical stacks of 288 discrete transmit/ receive antenna modules that are excited by a high power amplifier operating under software control. The radar provides selectable, almost instantaneous, beam rotation rate through 360 degrees with focused narrow angle sector search, wide angle sector search, with an available higher than normal power transmission to increase detection range. A “track while scan” of air and surface targets is provided along with selectable Dedicated, Platform Stabilized, Ground Stabilized and Background Sectors. The radar operates in SAR and MTI modes and the IFF capability is also embedded in the radar.

These features enable C4ISR needs to be fully satisfied, including the development and presentation of a Common Tactical Picture for integrated air, land, sea and network-centric operations management.

 

Specification (Abbreviated)

Frequency: L-band

Range: 200nm (370Km). Range may be selectively extended in a defined sector to 2x the nominal uniform surveillance range

Max. number of contacts: 3000, comprising a mix of surface and air threats

IFF range: >300nm

The ERP of the radar, detection threshold and its performance against very low RCS (stealth) targets is not known

Operator perspectives

The performance and features of the MESA radar confer very significant benefits to the mission crew. These include the ability to extend detection range in the direction of a threat, improve the tracking of threat targets and stabilize the situation picture using either platform or ground references to simplify the development of a situation picture. Similarly, the use of underlay maps, using a common grid, allows the crew to easily define surveillance areas and, for example, the identification of threat ingress and egress paths. As well, the radar simplifies the coordination of anti-air systems as the operational height of the aircraft provides “over the hill” identification of ground-based targeting systems. Control of UAVs from the aircraft is possible and will provide a further powerful aid for their use.

MESA radar antenna construction

To achieve complete spherical coverage and with minimal impact on the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft, the MESA radar antenna is a single physical structure that consists of two long vertical stacks of T/R arrays, one on each side of the structure with each providing +/- 60 (120 total) degrees coverage and two “end fire Top Hat” arrays one on each end of the slab arrays with each providing +/- 30 (60 total) degrees coverage fore and aft to provide complete 360 degree azimuth and high elevation coverage. 288 T/R arrays are installed in the antenna structure, with control and excitation electronics inside the aircraft. Two ventral fins are fitted to the aircraft to aerodynamically compensate for the radar and EW suite installations.

Wedgetail EW suite.

It is understood that the Wedgetail aircraft will carry an EW suite comprising the following systems:

*Elta EL/L 8300 (aka ALR-2001 ESM, a system derived from the earlier version of the same system that is installed on the RAAF AP3-C)
*Northrop Grumman AN/AAQ-24(V) Directed Infra-Red Counter Measures (DIRCM) augmented by the same company’s Viper solid state multi-band laser.
*Northrop Grumman AN/AAR-54 Missile Warning System (MWS)
*Elisra LWS-20 MWS
*ALE-47 Counter Measures Dispenser (CMDS)

 

ALR-2001 ESM

This is a passive system, designed to detect RF emissions in the microwave band originating from airborne, land-based and maritime sources. The major characteristic of the system is its high sensitivity; typically better that-80dbm, and other features are high probability of intercept and accurate parameter measurement.

This ESM operates in the bandwidth 0.5-18 GHz, and 0.2- 40 GHz with modification.

The system was designed for aircraft operations and to meet this application antennae covering the specified bandwidth are mounted in wingtip enclosures and in the nose and tail of the aircraft. These positions provide near free-space locations and optimum isolation from own aircraft emissions the antennae are fixed, but a spinning antenna may be installed to assist in providing emitter DF. The physical separation of the antennae provide a large uniform polar diagram and the ability to resolve the time of arrival between antennae of an emission using interferometer techniques to define its bearing. Received emissions are digitally processed to provide the emitter characteristics that are presented to an operator. Within its defined bandwidth this ESM is able to provide emitter ID, ELINT and COMINT data.

For all RAAF AP3-Cs the system was procured under the Odyssey project and was first flown in 1992. The system, with a separate operator console, was accepted after a 12-month evaluation period. It has been progressively updated since acquisition. The performance and experience of the ALR-2001 in the AP3-C provides a good reason for the system to be selected for Wedgetail.

It is also considered likely that Wedgetail may be fitted with ESM systems that cover the Low bandwidth spectrum (30KHz -300KHz VHF) as this band covers many communications systems that are not covered by ALR-2001.

EW Self-defence Systems

Wedgetail will operate close to what may become hostile areas in the future, and not always with the benefit of fighter protection. Because of the areas and height at which the Wedgetail will operate, threats from ground-to-air short range systems are unlikely, but this does not preclude the use of long range, high altitude missiles or attack by hostile aircraft from launching air to air missiles using EO and RF homing sensors. For these reasons it is expected that the aircraft will carry a very comprehensive self-defence EW suite.

AN/AAQ-24(V) Nemesis Directed Infra-Red Counter Measure (DIRCM)

The AAQ-24 comprises a very high accuracy, high tracking rate, two-axis gimbal housed in an enclosed turret. The gimbal carries the optical components of a high power IR lamp and a laser, but not the electronics, IR or laser sources. When a threat is detected and tracked by a complementary system, such as the AAR-54, the track data obtained from it is input to the AAQ-24 system causing the AAQ-24 to fire a directed high power IR, modulated, jamming waveform and a laser emission, when the threat is within range, to disable the incoming missile’s IR homing receiver. Initially produced using only a high-powered lamp, the system now incorporates a laser jammer that is both more powerful and provides more precise focusing on the threat. On Wedgetail it is understood that the turret is mounted at the rear, bottom of the aircraft fuselage.

AN/AA-54 Missile Warning System (MWS)

This MWS provides fast, accurate threat location information to the AAQ-24 DIRCM. The MWS consists of up to six UV sensors that are distributed around the fuselage of an aircraft to provide optimal threat detection when the threat emits UV radiation at launch and during the boost/sustainer motor burn phase. The output of the sensors is integrated to provide a resolved angle of arrival of the threat and this is output to a complementary system such as DIRCM. The AA-54 may also be used to cue a countermeasures dispenser system such as the ALE-47.

AN/ALE-47 Counter Measures Dispenser System (CMDS)

This system dispenses flare and/or chaff decoys designed to confuse threats that use IR or RF homing techniques. The system is typically cued by the AAR-54. The system comprises a control unit that interfaces with the EW bus and a dispenser that contains the decoys and discharges them on demand.

Boeing recently issued a media release:

Nov 9 2009 The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] announced that it has successfully completed tests of the Counter Measures Dispenser System (CMDS) for Project Wedgetail, Testing included 19 flights that dispensed more than 500 units of chaff and flares. The AEW&C team collected data via five high-speed video cameras mounted on the Wedgetail aircraft and an additional video camera attached to a T-33 chase plane” (Boeing Release). Considering that the CMDS is extremely widely used by the USAF and US Army, other than for aerodynamic reasons this test is hardly a major success story.

Laser Warning System (LWS-20)

The Elisra MIL-E -5400 qualified product has been designed to detect missile threats that use laser homing techniques. Of similar design to the AA-54, the LWS comprises up to six lasers sensors that are optimally located on the fuselage of an aircraft for spatial detection. Laser guidance energy emitted from a missile homing on an aircraft is detected, analysed and displayed by the system, including angle of arrival and other relevant symbology. Attributes of the LWS-20 include wide-band laser signal detection with high probability of detection, rapid threat acquisition, analysis, processing and display, programmable processor and a 1553 Mux bus interface.

It is believed that this system will be installed and integrated with the EW Suite.

Author’s comment.

The author notes that the Wedgetail self-defence system (excludes the ALR 2001) is strongly focused on the detection, tracking and destruction of ground-launched threats, against a low altitude operating aircraft which Wedgetail is not, although an air-launched threat high altitude missile using EO/ laser/RF homing can not be precluded.

Another note is that RF missile homing is still very widely used in air-launched missiles of which the USAF AMRAMM and USN ship-launched missiles such as SM-1 and SM-2 are prime examples. This class of missiles is today using dual IR/RF guidance systems.

With this in mind the author wonders why combat proven self-defence systems using RF jammers and RF decoys such as the Raytheon ALE-50 that is in wide USAF service in the F-16, F/A-18 EF and B1-B, and still evolving, have not been considered, particularly as the ALE-50 in the Fibreoptic Towed Decoy (FOTD) version is capable of decoying EO and RF threats. The FOTD version, the latter with modulation provided by an on-board RWR mimics the missile’s homing signal to further confuse the missile. Could it be that Northrop Grumman, who provides two of the four selected self-defence systems, is being parochial to the disadvantage of Wedgetail’s self-defence needs?

Communications Systems

The Communications System for Wedgetail will be the most comprehensive and complex system ever installed on a Defence airborne platform as Wedgetail is a crucial node of an increasingly complex defence system that is key to the implementation and operation of the Defence net centric warfare philosophy. In addition, Wedgetail must have the capability to report into strategic and tactical networks, of which it is also a vital part, and operate as a communications relay. The capability to report into strategic and tactical networks includes, of course, the ability of Wedgetail to interoperate with allied and coalition forces. That network continues to evolve. It is therefore likely that the Communications Systems on Wedgetail will be high on the evolution trail.

At present it is understood that Wedgetail will be delivered with three channels of HF Voice, eight channels of UHF/VHF voice and data and Link 4A and Link16 data links.

There is a dearth of information about the suppliers or supplier of the integrated communications system.

Support Facilities

As might be expected the Wedgetail project requires many and different Support Facilities that are necessary to provide crew training, mission analysis and system evolution.

*Integration Laboratory

Principal among these is the Integration Laboratory that has been set up by Boeing IDS in Seattle. This facility combines software, actual and representative hardware that is necessary to develop, integrate and qualify the complete mission system on the ground, prior to actual flight testing and qualification. It is assumed that Boeing has funded this facility as it will be continue to be used to provide high level support for the evolution of the Wedgetail mission system and also future sales of an AEWC system similar to Wedgetail’s.

AEW&C Support Facility (ASF)

This facility was described as providing “Australia with the capability to maintain, modify and evolve the AEW&C System”. The ASF provides a Configuration Management and Engineering Development Environment, to maintain all of the AEW&C data and software libraries, and to generate updates to the AEW&C software. A System Verification and Validation Environment that includes a mock-up of the AEW&C aircraft is to be used to test and validate changes to the AEW&C System.

*Operational Mission Simulator (OMS)

The OMS provides realistic training for the AEW&C aircraft mission crew by simulating the mission systems and aircraft environment. The OMS allows instructors to coach and monitor the performance of individual students, without compromising the fidelity of the simulated aircraft environment or reducing the actual airframe hours required for training mission crew. The OMS also facilitates training in rarely occurring or potentially dangerous situations, helping the crew to develop and maintain their capabilities so that they are always in a high state of readiness. The OMS provides a significant subset of the mission crews’ ground training, and will be complemented by Boeing’s mission crew training program.

*Mission Support Segment (MSS).

The MSS gathers the tasking and mission planning data required for all of the aircraft sub-systems prior to an AEW&C mission to enable flight crews to prepare for and carry out a mission. Post-mission functions are included for mission debriefings, mission analysis including replay of mission data and generation of mission reports. Two deployable MSSs as well as the fixed facilities at Tindal and Williamtown are provided.

The ASF, OMS and MSS are being developed and provided by BAE Systems in an integration laboratory established at Edinburgh Park South Australia. BAES will also deliver software associated with the above facilities for integration in Boeing’s Integration Laboratory in Seattle. Delays in the completion of Wedgetail’s mission systems may well have a flow-on effect on BAES’s ability to deliver on schedule.

*Operational Flight Trainer (OFT)

Consistent with the adaptation of a civil aircraft design for Wedgetail, the basis for the design of the AEW&C OFT was the adoption of the proven technology of the Thales 737NG flight simulator platforms already in training service with international civil airlines and flight training centers.

The OFT will provide RAAF flight crews with operational realism in a fully representative cockpit with all the audio, visual and motion cues of the service

environment. The OFT fidelity will provide training sequences that cannot be safely conducted in flight, such as in-flight refueling, and aircraft emergencies and will display mission system data such as radar imagery, self-defence imagery and probably the Common Tactical Picture that are provided in the aircraft for mission pilots.

The fully representative instrumented and functional cockpit, complete with tactile effects, is mounted on a six-degrees of freedom hydraulic jack motion system. External vision is provided using a 3-channel vision system with fully controllable visual intensity. High fidelity imagery of RAAF airfields and other selected topographical features are provided by the vision system.

The OFT meets CASA Level 5 standards for full flight simulation and is capable of being integrated with other remote simulation facilities using DIS/ HLA protocols.

Australian companies involved

For the Australian aircraft, Boeing and Northrop Grumman are teamed with Boeing Australia, Ltd., BAE Systems Australia and Qantas Defence Services. Boeing Australia will provide aircraft assembly, training, maintenance and support, BAE will provide the ASF, OMS and MSS described above. Qantas will provide maintenance support for the aircraft, noting that Qantas also provides maintenance for the two BBJ RAAF VIP aircraft. Thycon is under contract to Northrop to produce and support modules of the Aft Lower Lobe Module of the MESA.

1.Boeing Australia Limited (BAL)

BAL will provide the key involvement in the modification of four of the six Wedgetail aircraft at RAAF Amberley, following the modification of the first two aircraft by Boeing IDS Seattle. The Wedgetail AEW&C modification program is the largest commercial-to-military aircraft modification ever undertaken in Australia and the first time a Boeing 737 aircraft has been converted into an AEW&C platform. The work involves:

*Major structural modifications to the interior and exterior of the aircraft, including the removal of a large section of the fuselage—known as section 46—and its replacement with a reinforced section to enable the installation of the 3 tonne MESA radar.
*Installation of the MESA radar on the top of the rear fuselage
*Installation, test and integration of the complex mission system consoles,
*Modification of the fuel system including the addition of Aerial Refuelling and Fuel Jettison capabilities
*Component design and manufacture
*Logistics support
*Engineering support.

According to BAL the work includes the introduction of many new and innovative processes that will be of future value to Australia’s aircraft manufacturing industry.

2 British Aerospace Systems Australia

Announcing BAES’s Australia “Agreement” with Boeing IDS on 17 May 2001 Mr Jim McDowell, Chief Executive, BAE Systems said "This is a significant and demanding project for BAE Systems. The agreement reinforces BAE Systems' position as a leading supplier of electronic warfare and recognises our skills in the areas of integrated software systems. And Mr John Sandvig, Boeing Wedgetail Program Manager said
"The signing of this agreement is a significant milestone for the Wedgetail Program and for the 737 AEW&C product line. The agreement allows us to advance the important BAE Systems activities for electronic warfare subsystems and support segments". Readers will note that BAES does not design or supply any of the listed EW systems that are of Israeli and Northrop Grumman manufacture, but this did not preclude the possibility Company’s responsibility for the EW Suite integration and its integration with the mission system in the Boeing Integration Facility.

Conclusions

*From a mission system viewpoint the Wedgetail program is every bit as complex as the preceding Collins Class submarine program, although in all other respects there is no similarity, except the delay and contract performance.
*The program has been beset and yet may be further beset by delays due to technology issues and plain old mismanagement by the Buyer and the Supplier.
*About midway through the program Boeing announced two delays and their consequent financial impact. It can be safely conjectured that Defence suffered a similar financial impact as resources had to be provided to fill the holes caused by the delays. But the Australian public were not as far as is known made aware of the costs to the Commonwealth of the delay.
*The end delivery date, that is to say when all the aircraft, their systems and associated ground systems, that comprise the totality of the project, have been accepted and a complex operational evaluation of them has been completed remains anyone’s guess, despite Boeing’s date of 2011 for delivery of “final software” presumably for the aircraft mission systems. Delivery of this item will of course impact most if not all of the ground support systems.
*It is not unsurprising that with Wedgetail wrapped tightly around its neck Boeing is pursuing international sales of the same fundamental product to build up the market for a new AEW&C and it is probable that the Boeing International Marketing workforce is impacting progress of the engineering workforce on the Australian program.
*Nonetheless, the Wedgetail program, immense and unique as it is might eventually turnout to be, has the hallmarks of being one of the most operationally valuable systems ever acquired by Defence.
*Gentlemen, place your bets on 2015 as the earliest real in-service date and not on the con trick of providing two incomplete aircraft to the RAAF for crew training with Boeing pilots and tail numbers.

 

APDR at a glance