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January 31, 2023
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NATO Sends AWACS Surveillance Airplanes to Romania

NATO prepares a deployment of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveillance planes to Bucharest, Romania. According to a press release, the airplanes are scheduled to arrive on January 17, 2023, supporting the Alliance’s reinforced presence in the region and monitoring Russian military activity.

As Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine continues to threaten peace and security in Europe, there must be no doubt about NATO’s resolve to protect and defend every inch of Allied territory. Our AWACS can detect aircraft hundreds of kilometres away, making them a key capability for NATO’s deterrence and defence posture. I thank Romania for hosting the aircraft, which makes an important contribution to our early warning,

NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu

In the coming days, the NATO AWACS will start reconnaissance flights solely over Alliance territory. The mission is scheduled to last several weeks. The aircraft belongs to a fleet of 14 NATO surveillance aircraft, usually based in Geilenkirchen, Germany. Around 180 military personnel will deploy to the Romanian Air Force base at Otopeni near Bucharest to support the aircraft.

In response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, NATO has increased its air presence in eastern Europe with additional fighters, surveillance aircraft, and tankers. Since February 2022, NATO AWACS have conducted regular patrols over eastern Europe and the Baltic Sea region to track Russian warplanes near NATO borders.

What is AWACS, and what are the capabilities of this sort of aircraft?

The NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force (NAEW&C Force) is the Alliance’s largest collaborative venture and is an example of what NATO member countries can achieve by pooling resources and working together in a truly multinational environment.

According to its specifications, the NATO E-3A (or AWACS) is a modified Boeing 707 with long-range radar and passive sensors capable of detecting air and surface contacts over large distances. Information collected by AWACS can be transmitted directly from the aircraft to other users on land, at sea or in the air in near real-time.

Under normal circumstances, the aircraft can fly at a maximum range of 9,250 kilometres or for about eight and a half hours (and longer with air-to-air refuelling) at 9,150 metres (30,000 feet).

The active surveillance sensors are located in the radar dome (“rotodome”), making the AWACS a uniquely recognizable aircraft. This structure rotates once every 10 seconds and provides the AWACS aircraft with 360-degree radar coverage that can detect aircraft from a distance of more than 215 nautical miles (400 kilometres).

NATO operates a fleet of Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) aircraft, with their distinctive radar domes mounted on the fuselage, which provide the Alliance with air surveillance, command and control, battle space management and communications. NATO Air Base (NAB) Geilenkirchen, Germany, is home to 14 AWACS aircraft.

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