March 6, 2010:
South Korea has received the first of four Wedgetail AWACS (aerial early warning and control) aircraft. Another three will be delivered to South Korea in the next two years. South Korea is using these militarized Boeing 737 transports as the basis for the Wedgetail. The cruise speed for the 737 is 910 kilometers an hour and the Wedgetail version has a crew of 8-12 pilots and equipment operators, who use the search radar and various other sensors. The 78 ton Wedgetail can stay in the air for more than ten hours per sortie and operate at over 13,000 meters altitude. Australia, the first to order the aircraft, called the effort "Project Wedgetail" (named for the appearance of the aircraft with its long radar structure mounted on top), thus establishing the nickname for this type of AWACS aircraft.
Last year, Australia used a trainer version of a Wedgetail to develop and test the use of Wedgetail to control three ScanEagle UAVs. This enables the Wedgetail to expand its recon capabilities, using its own AESA radar and the video on the UAVs to quickly identify land or sea traffic. Any UAV with suitable communications equipment can be controlled by the Wedgetail. This technique has also been tested with fighter-bombers controlling UAVs.
Wedgetail development began thirteen years ago, and was originally to have been delivered four years ago. There were development problems. Nevertheless, Turkey and Australia are also buying Wedgetail. Australia received its first two last year. South Korea will spend the rest of this year installing and testing locally made equipment in their Wedgetail.