The Air Force should have begun replacing its fleet of AWACS airborne surveillance and battle-management planes 20 years ago. It didn’t, and as a result it is saddled today with 31 aircraft that are expensive to operate, hard to find parts for, and incapable of tracking some emerging threats. Early next year, the service plans to award Boeing a sole-source contract to develop an advanced version of the E-7 Wedgetail radar plane operated by Australia, South Korea and Turkey. Wedgetail, based on the widely used 737 commercial jet, is much less expensive to own and operate, and can track a broader array of threats at greater range. Congress has agreed to reprogram previously appropriated funds to keep the program on track until a 2023 budget is passed, which signals that lawmakers understand how critical the replacement program is. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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