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Wedgetail testing on track

By Leesha Furse

The Wedgetail undergoes air-to-air refuelling manoeuvrability tests.

The Wedgetail undergoes air-to-air refuelling manoeuvrability tests.

Photo by Boeing

CERTIFICATION testing of the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft has reached more than halfway and in less than six months mission system testing will begin.

OC AEW&C Systems Program Offi ce Group Captain Geoff Brown said the fi rst test aircraft had done about 220 fl ying hours, which was more than halfway through the FAA certifi cation fl ying required to certify the Wedgetail as being a different type of 737.

The aircraft has been designed so that it handles much the same as a normal Boeing 737-700. Most tests have been done out of Seattle and some out of Edwards Air Force Base in California.

GPCAPT Brown said the tests had so far focused on aircraft handling, performance testing as well as measuring the loads and vibrations caused by the airframe modifi cations in different fl ight manoeuvres.

One of the latest tests was of the aircraft’s ability to manoeuvre into place for air-to-air refuelling. Measurements were also taken of how the aircraft handles so the data can be used for the operational fl ight trainer.

“They’ve [the tests] revealed that the aircraft’s handling and performance is pretty much as it was modelled, which is a good result,” GPCAPT Brown said.

“There have not really been any surprises and any modifi cations needed so far have been relatively minor.”

He said the majority of the certi- fi cation would be fi nished by the end of the year, when some early radar testing would also be carried out.

Then the fi rst aircraft will be taken offl ine and refi tted with a full mission system. While the fi rst aircraft is refi tted, the majority of the mission system testing will be carried out on a second aircraft, which is nearing completion in Seattle.

The mission system testing will begin in March 2005. GPCAPT Brown said these tests would take about 18 months.

The Air Force will receive the fi rst two of its six AEW&Cs in November 2006.

The remaining aircraft, which will be modifi ed by Boeing at RAAF Base Amberley, will be delivered between 2007 and 2008.


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