Pyne announces E-7A upgrade on Williamtown visit and opens joint strike fighter off-board information systems centre

Advanced equipment: A E-7A Wedgetail airborne command and control aircraft lands at RAAF Base Williamtown during Exercise Dawn Strike. Picture: CPL Nicci Freeman
Advanced equipment: A E-7A Wedgetail airborne command and control aircraft lands at RAAF Base Williamtown during Exercise Dawn Strike. Picture: CPL Nicci Freeman

An upgrade to the E-7A Wedgetail announced at Williamtown RAAF-base on Wednesday will enable the tactical control aircraft to ‘speak’ to the F-35A Joint Striker Fighter when it arrives in 2018.

Boeing Australia vice president and managing director Darren Edwards said the 5A upgrade it will be responsible for would enhance the Wedgetail’s already impressive capabilities.

The upgrade worth up to $240 million will create 120 jobs in Brisbane and a further 45 jobs between RAAF bases Amberly and Williamtown.

“The aircraft behind me is a missions critical piece of kit and it has proven itself time and time again, as the most advanced air battle management system in the world today,” he said.

“The first major upgrade that has been announced today provides critical ‘inter-operable’ capabilities with the allies on operations and with fifth generation aircraft including the JSF.”

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne was able to see first hand the Wedgetail’s capabilities, aboard the converted Boeing 737-700, before he touched down to make the announcement.

“Today is another really important milestone in the government’s commitment to the largest build up of our military capability in our peace time history,” he said.

“The Wedgetail is one of the most important platforms in the Airforce and, therefore, our Defence Forces,” he said.

“As you would know it is in action right now in the Middle East, Syria and Iraq providing absolutely vital battleground information with radar and other information provided to our Hornets, and other countries of course with whom we are operable, so we can defeat the Daesh or ISIS or ISIL - what ever you like too call them.”  

From the hangar, Mr Pyne traveled a short distance across the base to open the Off Board Information Systems Centre (OBISC) that will support the F35-A, two of which will arrive at the end of 2018.

The facility is designed to process the flight tapes from the F35-A before the are returned to the plan for the next mission.

“The centre is an Australian-unique capability that hosts ground-based, off-board, F35A Autonomic Logistics Information Systems (ALIS),” Mr Pyne said.

“The ALIS is the logistic nerve centre for the Joint Strike Fighter. It is used to support mission planning, manage air and ground crew training, manage day to day maintenance activities and to provide logistical support to the aircraft and associated systems.” 

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