NATO has selected Boeing’s E-7A Wedgetail aircraft for its next-generation command and control aircraft as the current Airborne Warning and Control (AWACS) fleet nears retirement. The E-7A will replace the existing fleet with production set to begin in the coming years.
“Surveillance and control aircraft are crucial for NATO’s collective defence and I welcome Allies’ commitment to investing in high-end capabilities,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“By pooling resources, Allies can buy and operate major assets collectively that would be too expensive for individual countries to purchase. This investment in state-of-the-art technology shows the strength of transatlantic defence cooperation as we continue to adapt to a more unstable world”.
The first aircraft is expected to be operational by 2031. A consortium of Allies approved the project, which is one of NATO’s biggest-ever capability purchases, this month.
The E-7 Wedgetail is a highly advanced early warning and control aircraft that provides situational awareness and command and control functions. Equipped with a powerful radar, the aircraft can detect hostile aircraft, missiles, and ships at great distances and can direct NATO fighter jets to their targets.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and Türkiye either operate or plan to operate the Wedgetail. It is based on a militarized version of the 737 jetliner. NATO has operated a fleet of E-3A Airborne Warning and Control (AWACS) aircraft since the 1980s.
Based at Geilenkirchen airbase in Germany, the AWACS have flown in every major NATO operation, including the fight against ISIS and on NATO’s eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The E-7 is expected to be primarily based at Geilenkirchen but could operate from several forward locations across Europe. The Wedgetail will be part of the Alliance’s future surveillance and control project that will field NATO’s next generation of surveillance systems from the mid-2030s.