January 7, 2009: Boeing 737 AEW&C Testing

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

Boeing completed the initial aerial refuelings of a 737 aircraft platform. The historic flights on were conducted for Project Wedgetail, Australia’s airborne early warning and control program. Flying 25,000 feet above Edwards Air Force Base, Boeing test pilot Ron “Taco” Johnston maneuvered the 737-700 Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft into a United States Air Force KC-10 Extender tanker’s refueling boom envelope and easily maintained its position below the tanker. The 737 received approximately 14,000 pounds of fuel during two connections with the tanker. “The aircraft was stable, with excellent flying qualities and engine response behind the tanker,” said Johnston after the flight.

n the 1990s, Australia recognized a need for an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. In 1996, Australia issued a request for proposal for the aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force 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 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 Electronic Intelligence array, with a maximum range of over 850 km at 9,000 meters 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.


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