VICTORIA, Australia — A senior Royal Australian Air Force commander has provided details of an interim upgrade carried out on the RAAF's Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft before their deployment to the Middle East last September.
Australia still has a Wedgetail operating from the United Arab Emirates under Operation Okra as part of an Australian Air Task Group (ATG) that also includes a single Airbus KC-30A multirole tanker transport and six Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets. Prior to the initial deployment the E-7A was fitted with an IP chat capability, providing text rather than voice connectivity with the Combined Air Operations Centre in theater, Wing Commander Paul Carpenter said at the 2015 Australian International Air Show at the Avalon Airport here.
Wing Commander Paul Carpenter was the Commanding Officer of the Wedgetail squadron and the detachment commander of the first rotation of Wedgetail personnel who returned home to Australia in January. He is presently the executive officer of No.42 Wing of the RAAF's Surveillance and Response Group.
"The introduction of the IP chat capability into the aircraft was a real success story for us," said Carpenter, who was the commanding officer of the Wedgetail squadron and the detachment commander of the first rotation of Wedgetail personnel who returned to Australia in January. "That project looked like being many years in the future, but when we got notice of our Operation Okra deployment, our engineering department team got together with the wing, AEW&C System Project Office and Boeing Defence Australia and came up with a solution in a matter of weeks."
Carpenter, who returned to Australia in January, is presently now the executive officer of No.42 Wing of the RAAF's Surveillance and Response Group, said the system went live on the evening before the first mission, in which the Wedgetail became the first Australian military aircraft to operate over Iraq during the current campaign.
"It uses an iridium satellite telephone system and it was developed incrementally, getting communications set up and then providing basic data, getting in to the right networks and tapping into the American system, because the Americans use IP chat extensively," Wing Commander Carpenter said.
Kim Gillis, Boeing Defence Australia's managing director, also told reporters that Boeing was is offering the E-7A platform to a number of countries at the present time.
"There are a number of other customers looking at it and we are competing in a range of campaigns, but they are not public yet," he said.