Australia to deploy surveillance aircraft to assist Ukraine

The Wedgetail, with as many as 100 crew and support staff, will operate from Germany for at least six months.

An Australian Air Force Wedgetail taking off. The plan is white and has a large rectangular surveillance unit on top. There's a red stripe on the tail.
The E-7A Wedgetail is one of Australia's most sophisticated surveillance planes [File: Cpl David Gibbs/Australian Defence via AFP]

Australia will send a Royal Australian Air Force surveillance aircraft to Germany to help support Ukraine by protecting vital humanitarian and military supply lines.

The E-7A Wedgetail, one of Australia’s most sophisticated early warning and airborne control platforms, will be based in Germany for six months along with as many as 100 crew and support personnel, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told a news conference in Berlin on Monday.

“This is an important contribution,” he said, standing alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“Australia, of course, is a long way from Europe. But one of the things that this war has done is remind us that in today’s interconnected globalised world, an event such as the land war in Europe has an impact on the entire world. We’ve been impacted by our economy, [and] we’ve been shocked by the brutal invasion and the disregard for the international rules-based order, which we had come to think was something that we hoped would be a permanent presence. So it is important that the democratic world react to defend the rules-based order.”

Scholz gave his backing to the move.

“It is truly very important to know how much Australia supports Ukraine,” he said, noting the backing for Kyiv from countries beyond Europe. “Ukraine needs this support.”

Kyiv began a renewed counteroffensive a month ago to take back lands occupied by Russia since it began its full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022. Western countries have promised to stand by Kyiv, providing it with the weapons, military equipment and ammunition it needs.

“The deployment of the E-7A Wedgetail as an additional early warning capability will help ensure that vital support flowing to Ukraine by the international community is protected,” Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said in a statement.

“Australia is committed to ensuring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity prevails against Russia’s assault on the rules-based order.”

The Wedgetail will operate only in European airspace avoiding Ukrainian, Russian or Belarusian skies, the statement said.

Based on a Boeing 737-700 aircraft, the Wedgetail is modified to combine long-range surveillance radar, secondary radar and tactical voice and data communications systems to provide airborne early warning and control, according to Australia’s air force.

It is capable of unlimited long-range deployment with in-flight refuelling.

Albanese was in Berlin in advance of the NATO summit, which starts in Vilnius on Tuesday. Australia has been invited to the meeting as an Indo-Pacific Quad partner, along with Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

While in Berlin, Albanese also attended the signing of an in-principle agreement to deliver more than 100 Australian-made Boxer armed carriers to Germany in one of Canberra’s largest-ever defence export deals.

Source: Al Jazeera