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Jun 22 2022

NATO AWACS Celebrates 40 Years

In February 1982, the first NATO E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft arrived at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen. To mark this historic event, an event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the NATO E-3A AWACS was held at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen. Over 100 people, including former commanders, community leaders and friends of the Component, attended the event.

"NATO had a vision. A vision of nations coming together in order to form the Alliance's first multi-national flying unit," said Air Commodore (OF-6) Keith Taylor, Force Deputy Commander. "Those original nations, each bringing different cultures, languages and perspectives came together to form an organization whose success is critical to the defence of the Alliance."  

The NATO E-3A AWACS has provided air surveillance while delivering Air Battle Management and Command and Control capabilities to NATO. In the last 40 years, the AWACS has conducted a wide range of missions to include: peacetime air policing, support to counter-terrorism, evacuation operations, humanitarian aid and crisis response missions.

The members of the Component are the embodiment of the Alliance

"The operations of the E-3A AWACS include more than what we see at Geilenkirchen," said Colonel Bas Pellemans, E-3A Component Deputy Commander. "It involves our Forward Operations Location in Oerland, Norway and the bases in Trapani, Italy, Aktion, Greece and Konya, Turkey, which serve to ensure our flexible projection of airpower along NATO's outer borders."

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A NATO member gives a tour inside a NATO E-3A AWACS to visitors during an event. Members of the E-3A Component and guests celebrated the 40th anniversary of the NATO E-3A AWACS. 


The NATO E-3A AWACS has held a unique place in NATO military history along with the Component, as it is the first multinational operational flying unit established by the Alliance. There are 20 NATO member nations who participate in the programme.

"The members of the Component are the embodiment of the Alliance," said Air Commodore Taylor. "They are the capability that provides the vigilance NATO demands in accomplishing our mission to DETECT, DIRECT and DOMINATE the airspace in defence of the Alliance."

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Inside a NATO E-3A AWACS

A visitor sits in the cockpit of a NATO E-3A AWACS during a visit at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen. The visit was in support of the 40th anniversary of the NATO E-3A AWACS.

Strike Up the Band

Members of the Luftwaffenmusikkorps Münster, prepare to play music during the 40th anniversary of the NATO E-3A AWACS event at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen.

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Story by Airborne Early Warning & Control Force Public Affairs Office

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