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The E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) represents the world's standard for airborne early warning systems.
E-3 fills the needs of both airborne surveillance and command and control (C2) functions for tactical and air defense forces. It provides a highly mobile, survivable surveillance and C2 platform.

The E-3 offers superior surveillance capabilities. Equipped with a "look-down" radar, the AWACS can separate airborne targets from the ground and sea clutter returns that confuse other present-day radars.
Its radar "eye" has a 360-degree view of the horizon, and at operating altitudes can "see" more than 320 kilometers (200 miles). It also can detect and track both air and sea targets simultaneously.

In service since 1977, AWACS has earned the reputation as an international keeper of the peace in operation with the U.S. Air Force, NATO, United Kingdom, France and Saudi Arabia.

The E-3 Role
In its tactical role, the E-3 provides quick-reaction surveillance and C2 necessary to manage both tactical and defensive fighter forces. The E-3 can detect and track hostile aircraft operating at low altitudes over all terrain, and can identify and control friendly aircraft in the same airspace. The AWACS' mobility allows rapid deployment in any military action, regardless of intensity.
In its strategic defense role, the E-3 provides the means to detect, identify, track and intercept airborne threats.

Characteristics
The basic E-3 aircraft is a militarized version of the Boeing 707-320B commercial jetliner airframe. It is distinguished by the addition of a large, rotating rotodome containing its radar antenna and identification friend-or-foe (IFF) and data-link fighter-control (TADIL-C) antennas.

Its mission system includes surveillance radar, navigation, communications, data processing, identification and display equipment. The heart of the information processing network is an airborne version of the IBM command and control multiprocessing computer.

U.S. and NATO E-3s are powered by four TF-33, 21,000-pound-thrust jet engines. E-3s for Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and France are powered by four, higher-performance CFM-56 engines. The new engines allow operation at higher altitudes, extending the horizon for radar surveillance.

AWACS in Operation
The E-3 system, deployed worldwide, has set enviable records of more than 20 years of service. In U.S. and NATO operations, the aircraft have significantly surpassed the standard for mission readiness, demonstrating an availability level of 95 percent. In comparison to competing systems, the E-3 has an extremely low maintenance-manhours-per-flight record.

The AWACS fleet has been an important deterrent to aggression, and an "eye in the sky" during times of tension and instability in Europe, the Far East and Middle East.

During the 1990-91 Persian Gulf conflict, 11 U.S. Air Force AWACS aircraft were deployed to Saudi Arabia, supplemented by three more from air bases in Turkey, two on standby in England, one on alert at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and five AWACS owned by the Royal Saudi Air Force.

When the allied air strikes began against Iraq, the AWACS role shifted from defense to a variety of tasks including surveillance, directing air strikes, interdiction of Iraqi airplanes, coordination of air-to-air refueling flights and protection of high-value aircraft conducting intelligence and ground surveillance.

One of AWACS' major responsibilities was keeping track of the thousands of sorties being flown by hundreds of coalition aircraft.

Some 845 AWACS sorties were flown, for a total of 10,500 hours. The AWACS fleet monitored 120,000 coalition sorties -- 2,000 to 3,000 per day -- and was instrumental in destroying virtually all of the 41 Iraqi aircraft shot down during the war.

NATO E-3s have been a major factor in the United Nations' ability to monitor and enforce the "no-fly" zone over Bosnia-Herzgovina. From July 1992 to September 1995, E-3 aircraft, including U.K. and French AWACS assets, flew nearly 5,000 missions totaling more than 39,000 hours in support of U.N. objectives in this region.
 
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