|INTEGRATED DEFENSE SYSTEMS|
BY DAVE SLOAN
The 737-700 fuselage loaded on a rail car wasn’t your everyday shipment pulling into Renton, Wash. last month. It was the first of four platforms for Australia’s airborne early warning and control system, known as Project Wedgetail.
The fuselage arrived from the Boeing facility in Wichita, Kan. It has completed final assembly and will now undergo ground testing.
Early next year, the plane will fly to Delaware for installation of auxiliary fuel tanks. It will return eight weeks later to Puget Sound where it will undergo major modifications, including attachment of its distinctive top-mounted radar, at the Military Flight Center in Seattle. Flight testing begins late next year.
Boeing has also successfully completed the preliminary design review of the radar and identification friend or foe systems for Australia’s Project Wedgetail. The PDR represents the first major design milestone in the development of this state-of-the-art 737 AEW&C system.
Boeing finished work on the PDR on schedule and within budget.
The PDR includes a general review of the radar and IFF design against the Wedgetail radar subsystem requirements Australia established.
“During the PDR, Boeing and Boeing’s teammate Northrop Grumman evaluated the suitability of the design to the comprehensive set of radar subsystem requirements specified in our contract with the Commonwealth of Australia,” said John Sandvig, Boeing Wedgetail program manager. “Our team examined Northrop Grumman’s initial hardware and software designs and their interfaces with the rest of the Wedgetail system. We’re confident these designs satisfy the requirements and will yield a highly effective Wedgetail product for the commonwealth and other future customers.”
“This PDR milestone is significant in the design maturity of the Wedgetail AEW&C radar system,” said Air Vice Marshall Norm Gray, head of the Royal Australian Air Force airborne early warning program. “We are very pleased with both Boeing and Northrop Grumman’s progress in this area. It bodes well for the rest of the program.”
The next step in the process is detailed design definition of components, parts and software to create the radar subsystem. These include structural drawings, circuit diagrams, electronics board and box layouts, and manufacturing and support plans.
The multi-role electronically-scanned array radar and IFF system is the critical sensor aboard the 737 AEW&C. The electronically-scanned array is designed to provide optimal performance in range, tracking and accuracy. The radar is able to track air and sea targets simultaneously and can help the operator track and control high-performance aircraft while scanning the operational area.
Last year, Boeing signed a contract with Australia for the development and acquisition of Project Wedgetail.
A Boeing-led team, including Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector, Boeing Australia Limited and BAE SYSTEMS Australia, will provide four 737 AEW&C systems plus options for up to three additional systems. The contract also provides ground-based support for flight and mission crew training, a mission support segment, software maintenance facilities and spare parts.
Boeing expects to deliver the first two aircraft in 2006.
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