News: NATO Strengthens Situational Awareness with Next Generation Command and Control Aircraft, 2023 November 15

As the Alliance’s Early Warning and Control (AWACS) fleet approaches, NATO has opted for a new generation of command and control aircraft. Production of six new Boeing E-7A Wedgetail aircraft is expected to begin in the coming years, with the first aircraft expected to be operational by 2031. A consortium of allies approved the project, one of NATO’s largest. ever possible purchases this month.

“Surveillance and command aircraft are critical to NATO’s collective defence, and I welcome the Allies’ commitment to invest in top-class capabilities,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “By sharing resources, allies can jointly purchase and manage large assets that would be too expensive for individual countries to acquire. This investment in cutting-edge technology demonstrates the strength of transatlantic defense cooperation as we continue to adapt to a more volatile world.”

The E-7 Wedgetail is an advanced early warning and control aircraft that provides situational awareness and command and control capabilities. Equipped with a powerful radar, the aircraft can detect enemy aircraft, missiles and ships at long distances and direct NATO fighter jets to their targets. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Türkiye also either fly or plan to operate the Wedgetail. It is based on a militarized version of the 737 jetliner.

NATO has operated a fleet of E-3A airborne warning and control (AWACS) aircraft since the 1980s. Based at Geilenkirchen Air Base in Germany, the AWACS have flown all major NATO operations, including the fight against ISIS, as well as NATO’s eastern flank following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The E-7 is expected to be based in Geilenkirchen and could operate from multiple locations across Europe. The wedge tail will be part of the Alliance’s future surveillance and control project, which will begin in 2030. the next generation of NATO surveillance systems will be operational by mid-2018.

Godfrey Kemp

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