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 Aug 19 2020

NATO AWACS – An Important Air Power Enabler

RAMSTEIN, Germany – NATO and the Nations’ Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) fleets have been busy in several orbits across the Alliance territory providing enabling services in the fields of air surveillance, air command and control and battle management.

NATO’s fleet of Boeing E-3A aircraft AWACS equipped with long-range radar and passive sensors are capable of detecting air and surface contacts over large distances; operational control (OPCON) of the AWACS mission rests with Allied Air Command at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Coordination at the AWACS Force and the Nations revolves around harmonizing aircraft availability, take-off times, transition to the orbit and on-station times. Quite a lot of moving parts to be de-conflicted

During the week August 10 to 14, the NATO Airborne Early Warning (NAEW) OPCON Section oversaw a dozen of NAEW sorties, most of them conducted by the NATO E-3A Component flying aircraft out of the Main Operating Base at Geilenkirchen, Germany, and the Forward Operating Base at Konya, Turkey. The Royal Air Force E-3D aircraft and Turkish Airborne Early Warning E-7T aircraft also provide assets for the NAEW missions.

“The NATO and Royal Air Force AWACS aircraft were employed to enhance the Air picture and train with Allied forces,” explained Spanish Air Force Major Begoña B. Martin with the AIRCOM NAEW OPCON Section. “The aircraft’s orbits were in crucial areas north of Norway, in the North and Baltic Seas, on the Alliance’s eastern flank, in the Western and Eastern Mediterranean and on the western shores of the Black Sea,” she added.

AWACS aircraft flew missions providing tactical control and air surveillance with fighters and Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPAs) from France, Norway, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. US Air Force, Royal Air Force and Turkish Air Force tankers refueled

the AWACS aircraft extending their on-station time. In the Baltic Sea, they flew missions in support of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, a maritime force capable of performing missions across the full spectrum of operations.  

The AWACS aircraft’s missions require comprehensive coordination and thorough preparation. The AIRCOM OPCON Section works with Allied Maritime Command, the Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOCs) and supported national air forces.rambled it to make a type specimen book. 

“For every single sortie we try to obtain training opportunities with NATO nations e.g. for control of fighter activities or air-to-air refueling; the CAOCs arrange necessary airspace and communications,” said Major Martin. “Once these opportunities are identified, coordination at the AWACS Force and the Nations revolves around harmonizing aircraft availability, take-off times, transition to the orbit and on-station times. Quite a lot of moving parts to be de-conflicted,” she added.

The operational output of the NAEW missions flown by various AWACS assets is based on requirements established by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. The fleet is involved in the Assurance Measures following the Russia-Ukraine crisis, and in the tailored Assurance Measures for Turkey against the background of the Syrian crisis. The execution of these missions provides many opportunities for cooperation among NATO and national assets further honing Allied cooperation, interoperability and multi-domain operations.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

A NATO E-3A taking off as another aircraft of the fleet is parked on an apron at NATO's E-3A base in Geilenkirchen, Germany. Photo courtesy NATO E-3A Component.
Inside a NATO E-3A aircraft  a crew of international specialists work on control screens to execute the mission in support of SACEUR's operational requirements. Photo courtesy NATO E-3A Component.
A NATO E-3A aircraft during refuelling operations with a U.S. Air Force KC-135 viewed from the ground. Photo by Rainer Hentschke

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