GEILENKIRCHEN, Germany - At the heart of the Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE 23), two NATO AWACS aircraft execute a vital role in providing airborne surveillance and command and control capabilities from the Forward Operating Location in Ørland. During the exercise, the AWACS controls more than 100 fighter aircraft from 14 different nations during several air attack waves. By participating in Arctic Challenge Exercise 2023, NATO AWACS demonstrates its commitment to upholding security and fostering cooperation among NATO nations and security partners. ACE 23 is hosted by Finland, Norway, and Sweden and brings together around 3,000 soldiers from 29 May to 9 June 2023.
Arctic Challenge Exercise is part of a series of exercises originating from the 2004 Nordic Air Meet. The aim is to train units in planning, command and control, and orchestration of air operations. It also provides a platform for cross-border training and collaboration among the participating countries. The adversaries in the exercise emulate a technologically advanced air adversary and ground-based air defense, creating realistic scenarios for the participating forces. The primary goals of the exercise are to enhance cooperation, improve readiness, and strengthen interoperability among the participating nations.
NATO's strength lies in its unity.
“Coming together in exercises like ACE allows NATO AWACS and our partners to enhance readiness, interoperability, and cooperation. This enables a team of nations to address emerging challenges more effectively than one nation alone, demonstrating the key role of a unified approach in safeguarding security in a complex and ever-changing environment.” stated U.S. Air Force Major Tony, deployment commander of NATO AWACS.
A NATO E-3A AWACS crew member observes a map while flying over Northern Europe for Arctic Challenge Exercise 2023, 7 June, 2023. The NATO AWACS participation in the exercise demonstrates its commitment to upholding security and fostering cooperation among NATO nations and security partners.
NATO AWACS aircrafts play an important role in the Arctic Challenge series since 2013 in controlling fighter aircraft during the execution phase in the Arctic region. Equipped with advanced radar and communication systems, the AWACS aircraft can detect and track the participating air assets over vast distances, enabling effective monitoring and control of the airspace and directing fighter aircraft in large-scale simulated air operations. "The Arctic Challenge Exercise 2023 provides the NATO AWACS team a unique opportunity to control large air combat missions of 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft and execute command and control in a challenging air threat scenario," said Norwegian Air Force Captain Anders, NATO AWACS weapons controller. The coordination of air-to-air combat engagements, ensuring friendly aircraft situational awareness, and supporting engaging enemy targets effectively is one of the key roles of NATO AWACS on the modern battlefield where the Alliance can rely on.
The NATO AWACS Detachment comprises a team of 67 pilots, mission crews, logistical and technical personnel along with exercise support, diligently striving to execute the mission and provide maximum support during exercises to a wide scale of fighter aircraft, tanker aircraft, and air defense systems. Participants from Denmark, Finland, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States are operating out of Air Bases in Finland, Norway, and Sweden.