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USAF looks at replacing E-3 AWACS


Dawes
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Seems like the USAF is very interested in it.  I'm curious though, is it the most capable option, or is the quickest or cheapest good option? 

 

What are the differences in capability between the Sentry and the Wedgetail? 

 

https://breakingdefense.com/2021/10/the-us-air-force-just-inched-closer-to-buying-boeings-e-7a-wedgetail/

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The airframe is probably a lot more reliable. Whether it's more or less capable would depend on how good the technology refreshes for the E-3 have been, but I'd expect a fully electronically scanned system to be more agile, not to mention more reliable as you've removed irritating rotating couplings and such.

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It's the same diameter (the 707 and 737 "barrels" are the same size), but about 50 feet shorter. I suspect that the platform size was more relevant back in the mid-70s when the radar was practically steam-driven - they don't run to 100 crew after all, with the Australian one (per wikipedia) having 10 consoles.

There's also the benefit of not having to run a flight engineer and possibly a navigator, which the original 707 would have allocated space for.

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Considering this is "Big Air Force" stuff, crew size will be designed around standard issue flight-certified coffee makers.

I haven't been tracking this, but this article alludes to the US going to satellite-based EW;

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/42487/e-7-wedgetail-radar-jets-eyed-as-a-bridge-to-a-space-based-system-by-air-force

I'm not digging the idea of retiring fixed-wing EW assets in favor of satellites in general. The assumption that satellites are invulnerable seems like a bad idea.

 

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E-7 has L-Band radar, E-3 has S-Band radar, E-2D has C-Band radar.

While mid air refueling can help with the 737, during a notional high optempo conflict (like a conflict over Taiwan) I'd really rather not have to add additional burden on the tanker fleet when it's trivial to avoid it by giving such things consideration at this stage. I think the decision is being driven by expediency and expectation of a budget squeeze, but that always comes at a cost - they're going to be stuck with their interim solution for the long haul for better or worse. Things like replacing aging AWACS are an annoying distraction to funding sexier projects.

Personally, I would like to have seen a family of medium support aircraft based on the Boeing 787.

Edited by Burncycle360
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I wonder if they would be better off integrating with the 767 platform for commonality with the KC-46.  Then again, the P-8 is 737 based, so maybe it wouldn't matter much? But, then again (again), the P-8 is a Navy platform while the KC-46 is an Air Force platform... 

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6 hours ago, Burncycle360 said:

At this point perhaps the best thing we could do is let Boeing go under, have their assets sold off to a different management team and negotiate with them...
 

You cant. Boeing became so bloated, its reached that state where its become impossible to sit back and let it go without taking most of the industry with it. Not just airliners, but think how many defence firms its absorbed since the cold war. I agree, it would be the best solution, but anytime it looks likely, due to its favourable position, the Guvmint will be forced to save it. Its not Convair.

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Using the 767 (or even the 737NG) is essentially investing in a platform that the manufacturer is likely to stop caring much about during its operational lifetime. Which is where the 707-based aircraft are now. At least the E-7s are new builds off the end of the production line (which ceased for commercial builds in 2019, apparently)

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Turns out my rabbit hole trip into Boeing models took a turn into the 757 column not the 767 column at some point - the 767 production line appears to still be servicing some new build freighters as well as the still substantial KC-46 order line.

The KC-46 story would be funny if it wasn't tragic (from the US taxpayer viewpoint, anyway).

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