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Boeing's Aussie Vigilare goes operational

March 22, 2013 at 6:12 AM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, March 20 (UPI) -- Australia's air force gave final operational capability status to Boeing's Vigilare Command and Control System that provides air space surveillance information.

The system produces a comprehensive picture of air activity over Australia and throughout the near Pacific region, a statement by the air force said.

Vigilare operators pass surveillance information and instructions to aircraft operating across Australia.

Vigilare is designed for round-the-clock operation of the air force's two operational centers -- North Rock at Air Force Base Tindal near Darwin in the north the East Rock operations center at Air Force Base Williamtown near Sydney.

The air force statement said Vigilare "will significantly enhance the effectiveness of Australia's existing air surveillance and battle management capabilities."

Officer Commanding No. 41 Wing, Group Capt. Richard Pizzuto called the system "very much the eyes of the air force" because of the amount of data it can process and pass onto pilots.

"It draws in incredible amounts of information from more than 240 sources which is correlated to produce a comprehensive picture of the skies above and around Australia," he said.

Boeing-Australia's Vigilare already has changed air battle management by allowing the exchange of information from the Jindalee Operational Radar Network to Boeing E-7A Wedgetail aircraft, civil and military microwave radars, fighter and maritime patrol aircraft, navy air warfare-capable ships and intelligence sources.

Vigilare passed its last formal operational test at East Rock in April 2011.

The 2011 testing was incorporated into Exercise Aces South, a major combat exercise for pilots and air defense operators studying to become advanced fighter tactics instructors and controllers.

"Exercise Aces South was an excellent opportunity to put the newly installed Vigilare system through its paces," Pizzuto said at the time.

"We threw our best and brightest people into the exercise and they worked the new system extremely hard through some complex and intense air battle scenarios."

Austal said the system will improve the usefulness of Australia's newest surveillance aircraft, the Wedgetail, an airborne early warning and control aircraft that achieved initial operational capability only in November.

Boeing's 737-based Wedgetail can fly at an altitude of nearly 33,000 feet and maintain surveillance over more than 155,000 square miles, Australia's Department of Defense said. During a 10-hour mission the Wedgetail can cover around 1.5 million square miles.

Since 2011 Australia's Wedgetail has participated in Exercise Bersama Lima in Malaysia, Exercise Cope North Guam, Exercise Bersama Shield, Exercise Red Flag, Alaska and Exercise Rim of the Pacific.

The Department of Defense said the project was approved in 2000 with a budget of $3.45 billion to procure six 737-700 commercial aircraft fitted with Northrop Grumman active electronic scanned array surveillance radar.

After many delays over the life of the contract, the air force received the final Wedgetail in June.

A report by FlightGlobal defense news said Boeing accepted in January 2011 a charge of $136 million related to software issues associated with 737 AEW&C aircraft destined for Australia and Turkey.

This followed previous charges of more than $1 billion when delivery of the first Wedgetail to Australia slipped by more than three years to November 2009, the FlightGlobal report said.

Delays caused the Wedgetail to be added to the Defense Department's Projects of Concern list in January 2008.

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