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Mark’s artwork soars to new heights

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Shaun Hollis, Yorke Peninsula Country Times

A decorated RAAF officer who commissioned a painting to commemorate the moment which inspired his naming of the iconic Boeing E-7A Wedgetail defence force aeroplane said he could not be happier with the result.

The painting, by Minlaton artist Mark Short, depicts a wedge-tailed eagle taking flight.

The inspirational scene took place in 1989, when the now-retired Royal Australian Air Force Wing Commander Peter “Cowboy” Krieg, who grew up just outside Minlaton, was driving from Woomera to Adelaide thinking about what to call the RAAF’s potential new Airborne Early Warning and Control system (aircraft).

WGCDR Krieg, then a Flight Lieutenant, said he had just learned of a US Navy posting and was daydreaming about achieving his boyhood dream of flying, and pondering possible aircraft names.

He rounded a bend on the Stuart Highway, about 50 kilometres south of Woomera, and spotted a wedge-tailed eagle picking at a dead kangaroo on the side of the road; as he got closer, the eagle took flight.

“It was an awesome, graceful and majestic sight,” WGCDR Krieg said.

“At that exact moment I knew the perfect name for this new project, and that’s how the Wedgetail aircraft got its name.”

This was such a defining moment in his life that, years later, WGCDR Krieg wanted to capture it forever.

He commissioned Mr Short, a family friend, to recreate the scene that inspired the naming of the aircraft, now operating in regions such as Europe in support of the effort in Ukraine.

“I saw the program grow from a $400 million single-line item in an ADF (Australian Defence Force) budget document in the mid-1980s, through to a $3 billion fleet of six of the world’s most advanced air battle management aircraft,” WGCDR Krieg said.

“It was a long, hard slog, that’s for sure, but Wedgetail became my baby and we got there in the end.”

Mr Short said he felt excited to be involved in the ground-breaking project by recreating the scene on 1.5 square metres of canvas.

“It was one of the biggest paintings I’ve ever done,” Mr Short said.

“The size of it was challenging.

“And to have a photo of the painting taken in front of the plane was a privilege,” he said.

The artwork, called The Moment a Dream was Born, was presented to the RAAF’s No. 2 Squadron late last year.

WGCDR Krieg grew up on a family farm near Minlaton and joined the RAAF in 1981 as an Air Defence Controller.

The Wedgetail project came about when WGCDR Krieg was summoned to Canberra in 1989 and given orders to head overseas on a three-year posting with a US Navy E-2C AEW&C Squadron.

His orders were to learn about the operations and then use this knowledge to help justify building RAAF planes with similar capabilities.

WGCDR Krieg became the first ADF member to be awarded the US Navy Wings of Gold as a qualified AEW&C mission crew member and he then accumulated close to 420 flight hours.

He spent five years in Canberra playing a pivotal role in gaining government approval for the Wedgetail AIR 5077 Project.

In 2001, WGCDR Krieg joined Boeing so he could continue to work on the Wedgetail program, with the final aircraft delivered to the RAAF in 2012.

All up, he contributed to the Wedgetail project for close to 32 years.

The UK, US and NATO defence forces have recently selected the Wedgetail as one of their next generation aircraft.

This article appeared in Yorke Peninsula Country Times, 26 March 2024.

Yorke Peninsula Country Times 26 March 2024

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