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AWACS in flight

The E-3A Component has fourteen E-3A aircraft. These modified Boeing 707s are easily identifiable from the distinctive radar dome mounted on the fuselage. The E-3A usually operates at an altitude of around 10 km. From this altitude a single E-3A can constantly monitor the airspace within a radius of more than 400 km and can exchange information – via digital data links – with ground-based, sea-based and airborne commanders. By using pulse Doppler radar, an E-3A flying within NATO airspace can distinguish between targets and ground reflections and is therefore able to give early warning of low- or high-flying aircraft operating over the territory of a potential aggressor.


Airborne Early Warning & Control
Airspace surveillance and early detection of airborne threats.
Command & control
Command and control of military air units during operations and exercises.
Fighter control
Control of combat aircraft during operations and exercises.
SAR support
Coordination of Search and Rescue operations.
Airspace control
Control and coordination of airspace and the aircraft present within it.
Missile defence
Control of ground-based airspace defence units.
Support of maritime operations
Establishing and providing a radar picture of ongoing activities within a maritime area.

Technical specifications

Wingspan: 44.45 m / 145 ft 9 in
Length: 46.68 m / 152 ft 11 in
Height: 12.70 m / 41 ft 9 in
Diameter: 9.1 m / 30 ft
Thickness: 1.8 m / 6 ft
Height: 3.35 m / 11 ft
Rotation: once every 10 seconds  
Radar coverage: One E-3A flying at 30,000 ft / 9,150 m has over 312,000 km² in its field of view. Three E-3As in overlapping orbits can provide complete coverage of Central Europe. An E-3A can detect low flying targets within 400 km or 215 nautical miles; and at medium altitude targets within 520 km or 280 nautical miles. 
Armament: None.
Power plant: Four TF-33 Pratt & Whitney 100A turbofan engines.
Speed: More than 800 km / 500 miles per hour
Operational altitude: Above 9,150 m / 30,000 ft
Maximum take-off weight:  147,429 kg / 325,000 lbs
Fuel capacity: 89,610 liters / 70,371 kg or 22,768 gallons / 148,000 lbs
Endurance: More than 10 hours (unrefueled). All air-refuelable.


Flight crew
2 Pilots
1 Flight Engineer
Mission crew
1 Tactical Director
1 Fighter Allocator
2 Weapons Controllers
1 Surveillance Controller
3 Surveillance Operators
1 Passive Controller
1 Communications Technician
1 Radar Technician
1 System Technician
Total number can vary for a specific mission.  
Prime contractor: Boeing Aerospace Co., Seattle, Washington, United States.

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