NATO’s Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) is participating in the Combined Air Operations exercise, Frisian Flag, led by the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The annual Dutch exercise is hosted in the airspace of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, and offers different NATO fighter jet communities the opportunity to train in high-intensity warfare scenarios. The multinational crew on board at NATO E-3A AWACS supported the exercise by executing air surveillance and directing fighter jets during the live flying air combat training.
“The exercise Frisian Flag provides our mission crew a great opportunity to train in a complex environment with different fighter assets. The air battles with many jets are challenging our operators intensively which significantly increases our skills in a short period of time. By improving the interoperability and training of our airmen, we are making the Alliance stronger,” said Dutch Major (OF-3) Philip, Tactical Director on board at the NATO E-3A AWACS.
During Frisian Flag the NATO E-3A AWACS is flying from NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen to operate the system in the airspace between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. During first week of the exercise, an AWACS crew supported Defensive Counter Air Operations and NATO’s Command and Control asset executed offensive operations during the second week of the exercise. The situation which looms over the borders of the eastern flank of NATO, since Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, shows large-scale exercises like Frisian Flag are important more than ever.
NATO acquired 18 E-3As and support equipment, with the first aircraft delivered in January 1982. The aircraft are registered in Luxembourg. The eighteen E-3s were operated by Number 1, 2 and 3 Squadrons of NATO’s E-3 Component, based at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen. Presently, 16 NATO E-3As are in the inventory, since one E-3 was lost in a crash and one was retired from service in 2015. The latter was due for its six-year cycle Depot Level Maintenance (DLM) inspection which would have been very costly.