Above: An E-3 Sentry, or AWACS aircraft, shows off its distinctive radar disk
A system that has already proved its worth in Middle Eastern skies during Operation Desert Storm, the Boeing E-3 Sentry, is now being deployed by NATO to Turkey amid the coalition efforts providing air support against Daesh in Operation Inherent Resolve.
This move comes during a period of potential air warfare threat to allied aircraft operating in theatre- in November of last year, a Russian aircraft on strike missions in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government regime was downed by Turkish aircraft after straying into the NATO ally’s airspace. The aircraft, based at Geilenkirchen Air Base, are being redeployed to Konya Air Base in Turkey with a one-third proportion of German crews and are now carrying out surveillance operations over the local area- the Defence Ministry of Germany has issued a statement that only local airspace would be surveyed due to a lack of a perceived threat from Daesh’s air warfare capabilities.
“It is unlikely that purposes [of the Boeing E-3 deployment in Turkey]…can get out of the context of the integrated protection of the local airspace,” – Martin Schaefer, German Defence Ministry Spokesman
Meanwhile, the move has caused controversy in the German parliament, with some ministers claiming that they were not party to the decision to deploy:
“The government must immediately inform parliament of the details of this deployment, in particular what missions will be assigned to these planes and the destination of any data they collect.” – Tobias Lindner, Head of Defence Policy, Green Party
Designed in the 1970s, the E-3 is frequently known by the mission that it was designed to perform- Airborne Warning and Control Systems, or AWACS- airborne battlespace management. With a crew of 17-23 flight and mission personnel, the E-3 is a valued part of both NATO and the Royal Air Force’s air fleets. It is most easily identified by its 30 foot wide rotodome, which remains vigilant for threats up to stratosphere level, and once identified the mission crew can direct allied aircraft to deal with it.