Home / Europe / Cuts to the RAF’s E-7 Wedgetail AEW Mk1 aircraft purchase “terrible portent for the UK Armed Forces” – HSC Senior Fellow

Cuts to the RAF’s E-7 Wedgetail AEW Mk1 aircraft purchase “terrible portent for the UK Armed Forces” – HSC Senior Fellow

22 September, 2020

The Human Security Centre is alarmed by the apparent decision to reduce the planned fleet of UK Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft from five to three. Senior Fellow and Security and Defence team leader, Dr Rowan Allport, said:

“When Russian aircraft are probing UK and NATO air defences on a regular basis, one of the primary conventional wartime threat to the British mainland comes from low-flying cruise missiles which are difficult to detect using ground-based radar, and the complexity of the air environment facing deployed UK forces is greater than ever, the decision to reduce the purchase of E-7 Wedgetail aircraft below the already bare-bones planned fleet of five is very difficult to justify. Arguments that these platforms are vulnerable to modern long-range air defence missiles and low-observation fighters have merit, but the choice right now is either an adequate fleet of traditional airborne early warning and control aircraft or accepting a significant capability gap until more robust uncrewed systems of a type that are not yet in service anywhere in the world become available. The proposed cuts are also a terrible portent for the UK Armed Forces regarding the wider outcome of the current Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. There is no route to a Global Britain if we are unable to even provide adequate radar coverage over the North Sea.”

Senior Fellow Simon Schofield added:

“The decision to reduce the number of E-7 Wedgetails raises serious questions as to whether the UK will be able to maintain its NATO commitments. The proposed cut also ignores the critical role such aircraft have in generating situational awareness and providing air asset coordination in peacetime and during less intense conflicts – the latter including the ongoing effort against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It is vital that the MoD reconsider this decision.”

For further comment, please email rowan.allport@hscentre.org

Image: the Royal Australian Air Force variant of the E7 Wedgetail (Source: Eugene Butler via Wikimedia and GNU Free Document Licence)

About Rowan Allport

Dr Rowan Allport is a Deputy Director who leads the HSC's Security and Defence team. Rowan holds a PhD in Politics and a MA in Conflict, Governance and Development from the University of York, as well as a BA (Hons) in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Hull. Specialising in strategic analysis and international security, Rowan's primary areas of interest lie in the defence issues in and around the NATO region, interstate conflict and US foreign policy discourse. He is also the lead author of HSC's recent ‘Fire and Ice: A New Maritime Strategy for NATO’s Northern Flank’ report. Rowan's publication credits include articles and commentary in Foreign Policy, The Diplomat, The Hill, DefenseOne, RealClearDefense, The Strategist, UK Defence Journal, Politics.co.uk and The National Interest. He has previously worked as a lobbyist for the Whitehouse Consultancy in Westminster, and as a Senior Analyst for RAND Europe's Security, Defence and Infrastructure team.