Multi-nationality is the key characteristic of the NAEW&C Programme Management Organisation (NAPMO). Currently, the 16 full member nations are: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the United States.
The United Kingdom exercises limited participation as a NAPMO member; but her fleet of E-3D aircraft is an integral part of the NAEW&C Force. France has an observer role and maintains continual coordination to ensure her E-3F aircraft remain interoperable with the other E-3 fleets. France also often assists in coordinated operations with the NAEW&C Force.
The NAEW&C Force Command Headquarters is co-located with Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium, and exercises operational control over the force, consisting of two operational components:
- the E-3A Component based at NAB Geilenkirchen operates the 17 NATO-owned NE-3A aircraft; the squadrons are manned by integrated international crews from 16 nations; and
- the E-3D Component based at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, operating their six Boeing E-3D aircraft; the Component is manned by RAF personnel only;
The Force also maintains three forward operating bases (FOBs) at Konya in Turkey, Aktion in Greece, Trapani in Italy, and a forward operating location (FOL) at Oerland, Norway.
The AWACS programme is managed on a day-to-day basis on behalf of the NAPMO nations by the NAEW&C Programme Management Agency (NAPMA), which is located at Brunssum in The Netherlands. The agency is staffed by military officers seconded to the agency and by civilian officials from the nations participating in the programme.
How the NAEW&C Force works
All AWACS aircraft are similar but have subtle differences as they undergo continuous modernisation. The standard crew for an NE-3A aircraft modified under the NATO Mid-Term (NMT) Programme is 16, while the original E-3D require a standard crew of 18. Whatever the variant, the flight and mission crews are highly-trained men and women whose expertise covers all areas of flight operations including battle space management, weapons control, surveillance control, data link management and the technical aspects of communications, data systems and mission radar.
Under normal circumstances, the aircraft can operate for up to 11 hours (and longer with air-to-air refueling) at 30,000 feet (9,150 metres).
The active surveillance sensors are located in the radar dome (rotodome) which makes the NE-3A such a uniquely recognisable aircraft. This structure rotates once every ten seconds and provides the NE-3A with a 360-degree radar coverage that can detect aircraft out to a distance in excess of 215 nautical miles (400 kilometres).
One aircraft flying at 30,000 feet has a surveillance area coverage of approximately 120,463 square miles (312,000 square kilometres) and three aircraft operating in overlapping, coordinated orbits can provide unbroken radar coverage of the whole of Central Europe.
The aircraft is able to track and identify potentially hostile aircraft operating at low altitudes, as well as provide fighter control of Allied aircraft. It can simultaneously track and identify maritime contacts, and provide coordination support to Allied surface forces.