Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami has said he is “bitterly disappointing” the Ministry of Defence has entered “exclusive” talks with US planemaker Boeing over the purchase of its E7 ‘Wedgetail’ surveillance planes.

The MOD wants to purchase up to six of the Airborne Early Warning jets to replace the RAF’s ageing E-3D Sentry jets.

The Government says buying the E-7, which is based on Boeing’s 737 airliner, represents the “best value for money option for the UK.”

Airbus is reported to have teamed up with Sweden’s Saab to offer a cheaper alternative solution based on its A330 jet and Saab’s Erieye radar.

Airbus is anxious to try to prevent a deal between Boeing and the UK being awarded without competition and does not rule out mounting a legal challenge, according to reports.

Mark Tami MP told

“It’s bitterly disappointing that the MOD have begun exclusive negotiations with Boeing on this multibillion-pound contract.

Airbus have invested heavily in the UK and for them not to even get the opportunity to put their case across is a real slap in the face.

I have spoken to Airbus officials and they are quite rightly aggrieved by this development.

I will be putting in Parliamentary questions asking the Tories why they are rewarding Boeing – even after their hostile behaviour towards the UK and Bombardier earlier in the year”

Further discussions are set to take place before any decision is made by the MOD but it is widely expected the deal worth between £2bn and £3bn will be awarded to Boeing.

The Wedgetail was designed for the Royal Australian Air Force with investment by the Australian government.

Australian Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne said the RAF’s potential acquisition of the E-7 could lead to opportunities to “further deepen Australia’s relationship with the United Kingdom”.

Boeing is said to be willing to offer British firms a significant share of work on the program with modification work on the 737’s carried out in the UK.

Speaking ahead of the meeting of Defence Ministers in NATO, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“The Wedgetail is the stand-out performer in our pursuit of a new battlespace surveillance aircraft, and has already proved itself in Iraq and Syria.

Running air operations from the sky, it could be an excellent asset for the RAF and give us a real edge in this increasingly complex world.

Our future with Australia will already see us operate the same maritime patrol aircraft, world-class Type 26 warships and supersonic F-35 jets.

Wedgetail may join that formidable armoury and help us work together to take on the global threats that we both face.”

Named after Australia’s largest bird of prey, the wedge-tailed eagle, the high-performing aircraft has been proven on operations with the Royal Australian Air Force, having seen action against Daesh over Syria and Iraq and impressing US Forces in the ‘Red Flag’ series of large-scale exercises.

Picture – CPL Brenton Kwaterski –  Copyright: Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence