Updated: 18-Jan-2007 NATO Update

Poland joins NATO’s ‘eyes in the sky’

AWACS : NATO’s eyes in the sky

On 29 December 2006, Poland formally joined 15 other NATO countries that contribute to and manage NATO’s fleet of NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) radar aircraft, also known as AWACS.

Poland is the second of NATO’s ‘new’ member countries to accede to the AWACS programme (the first being Hungary in 2005).

The accession is a result of the joint efforts of the Programme Management Organisation (NAPMO) and its member countries, the Polish Ministry of Defence and the Polish Delegation to NATO. 

On 19 December last year, the Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced that the North Atlantic Council agreed to the accession of Poland to the Programme.

NATO’s eyes in the sky

The AWACS aircraft are equipped with special radar capabilities, including detecting air traffic over large distances and at low altitudes. They can transmit data directly to command and control centers on the ground, sea or in the air.

The fleet has been used in peace-support operations in the Balkans, to guard the skies over the United States after September 11, and to protect major public events, such as the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Pooling resources

The total cost of the programme, since its launch in 1978, amounts to approximately $6.5 billion USD. It is one of the Alliance’s largest multinational projects and an example of what NATO member countries achieve by pooling resources.

With Poland joining there are now 16 countries contributing to the programme.

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