The schedule to field the first E-7A Wedgetail airborne warning command and control aircraft remains intact despite an additional $200 million that Congress appropriated in fiscal year 2023 to accelerate the program, Air Force officials said on Tuesday.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told a Senate panel that funding to accelerate the E-7 would be to get more of the aircraft sooner, suggesting for example that instead of buying one aircraft, then two the following year, and three the year after, the acquisition profile might look like one, then three and three respectively during that period.

Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate Armed Services Committee, both said the $200 million in FY ’23 was aimed at getting the first E-7 into testing ahead of the planned schedule. Current plans are to have the first aircraft ready by 2027, which includes two years to acquire the new production 737-700 aircraft and two more years to modify them with the radar and command and control systems for the airborne early warning command and control mission, Kendall said.

In February, the Air Force awarded Boeing [BA] a $1.2 billion research and development contract to begin rapid prototyping of the E-7. The E-7 will replace the Air Force’s E-3 AWACS aircraft.

Kendall suggested that there has been “some confusion” around acceleration of the program.

“We get more inventory into the hands of people faster than we would have with the profile we initially proposed but you don’t get the first airplane faster,” he said. The budget request for FY ’24 doesn’t fund this acceleration, he said.

Kendall said he has personally reviewed the program to find a way to get into the testing phase sooner but “We couldn’t find a way to do that.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown told the committee that some of the $200 million in additional E-7 appropriations “went into the initial development and getting things on contract” and to purchase long-lead items to reduce risk.

The Royal Australian Air Force is acquiring the E-7, which is also operated by Britain’s Royal Air Force, Korea and Turkey. Even though the E-7 is being used by allies, the fact that new production aircraft have to be purchased and then modified takes time, Kendall said.

Brown said that in June the Air Force will send between 50 and 60 airmen to Australia to begin training on the E-7s so that when his service acquires the aircraft it will have operators and maintainers “to help accelerate bringing the E-7 into our inventory.”