E-7's involvement in Red Flag exercise could help inform Air Force

By Briana Reilly / January 26, 2022 at 5:15 PM

The head of the Air Force's Warfare Center said the E-7A Wedgetail's involvement in the recently kicked-off Red Flag exercise could help "feed into the lessons" the service reviews as officials look at moving forward with buying the aircraft as a replacement for the aging E-3 Sentry fleet.

The first Red Flag exercise of the year, which began this week at Nellis Air Force Base, NV, represents “a really fantastic opportunity” to leverage “what we all know is a critical and essential capability for the pacing challenges that we face in the Indo-Pacific theater, especially” through the Royal Australian Air Force’s E-7A, Maj. Gen. Case Cunningham said today.

“While we go through this Red Flag, we’ll be working to really refine the tactics, techniques and procedures that it means to work with F-35s and F-22s, for example in the highly contested environment as they work in collaboration with the E-7A and then we’ll work to iterate through those,” he told attendees during an online Air Force Association event.

The Air Force has eyed Boeing’s Wedgetail as a potential Airborne Warning and Control System follow-on, posting a notice in the fall seeking studies and analyses of “activities related to the current E-7A baseline configuration and [a determination of] what additional work” would be needed to meet Air Force standards and mandates.

More recently, Mike Manazir, Boeing’s vice president for defense business development, told reporters ahead of last November's Dubai Airshow that the company expects the service will announce “sometime in 2022 that they’re going to move forward on the E-7,” according to media reports at the time.

Australia and the United Kingdom have bought the E-7, which is based on Boeing’s 737. Participants from both of those country’s air forces are involved in the exercise, according to a Nellis AFB news release this week. Aside from the RAAF’s E-7A and the F-22 and F-35, other participating aircraft include the A-10, E-3, KC-135 and more, per the release.

Throughout the exercise, set to run through Feb. 11, Cunningham said he expects takeaways “will directly apply not only to how ready we are with respect to the current environment, but also will feed into the lessons as we potentially look at bringing the E-7 capability to our own Air Force.”