Out of all of America's eyes in the skies, the AWACS is probably most recognizable because of the giant rotating radar dome atop the plane. AWACS is an acronym for Airborne Warning And Control System, and the aircraft itself is the Boeing E-3 Sentry, a modified Boeing 707-320. AWACS aircraft provide commanders with an overview of battle activities. It provides tracking information on enemy aircraft and ships, as well as location and status of friendly aircraft and naval vessels. The first E-3s were delivered to the Air Force in 1977 and today there are 33 in the U.S. inventory in addition to 17 with NATO and 20 with U.S. allies.
After trying to develop an airborne early warning version of the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft, the United Kingdom finally gave up in 1986 and decided to buy a version of the Boeing E-3 instead. France followed suit and both countries ordered the type. Deliveries of seven E-3Ds for the U.K. and four E-3Fs for France, were completed in May of 1992. They were operated in conjunction with the E-3A Sentrys of the multinational NATO AEW Force (NAEWF).
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force owns and operates a pool of seven E3D Sentry AWAC aircraft serving with No. 8 and No. 23 Squadrons based at RAF Waddington. The aircraft are shared between the two squadrons with No.8 squadron providing the front line operational missions and No.23 Squadron providing the Sentry training flight.
The aircraft (which are all bear the names of one of Disney’s Dwarfs carry the markings of No.8 Squadron on the port side of the fuselage and the markings of No. 23 Squadron on the starboard side.
RAF Sentrys, although primarily committed to the Air Defence of the United Kingdom, are also a component of NATO’s multi –national airborne early warning force (NAEWF) and have been employed on NATO operations when required (most notably during the conflict in Yugoslavia).
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