Members of the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force hosted a ceremony to commemorate 25 years of the partnership between NATO and the U.S. Air National Guard May 24, 2018 at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany.
The U.S. Air National Guard delivers in-flight refueling with KC-135 Stratotankers to NATO-owned E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System. Aerial refueling extends the range of missions the 15 E-3A AWACS aircraft conduct during long-range aerial surveillance and command and control missions.
“The United States and the members of the Air National Guard are committed more now than ever to our NATO alliance partners, the E-3 AWACS Component, and a free, peaceful, secure Europe,” said Maj. Gen. Jon Kelk, the Air National Guard Assistant to the commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa.
NATO E-3A AWACS are vital to ongoing operations in the region such as counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, intelligence, surveillances and response missions; as well as Mediterranean maritime operations.
Since 1993, over 4,000 air refueling missions have supported European operations, supporting NATO objectives.
Over 15,000 U.S. Air National Guardsmen have rotated through NATO AB Geilenkirchen to support the AWACS mission. The U.S. Air National Guard provides personnel from rotating air refueling wings in intervals for 40 weeks each year.
In March 2018, NATO AWACS officially recorded over 1,000 mission hours supporting the coalition to defeat ISIS.
The NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force remains the only military assets owned and operated by NATO. The unit is comprised of 16 nations directly involved with E-3A operations, and 15 nations providing personnel with over 1,600 military and civilian personnel.
The May 24 ceremony at NATO AB Geilenkirchen was held to celebrate the long-standing partnership between NATO and the U.S. Air National Guard, which has been ongoing since 1993.
Other distinguished guests at the event included Maj. Gen. Dawn Dunlop, the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force commander, and Brig. Gen. Karsten Stoye, the NATO E-3A Component commander.
“With the continued hard work and dedication of NATO and Air National Guard personnel, the E-3A Component will be ready to provide dependable and responsive airspace control capabilities to NATO’s alliance,” said Kelk.
Under normal conditions, the NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft is able to operate for up to nine hours and cover a surveillance area of more than 312,000 sq. kilometers. The U.S. Air National Guard provides air refueling capabilities, which enables NATO E-3A aircraft to remain airborne indefinitely.
Furthermore, aerial refueling allows the E-3A to takeoff with a greater payload of equipment and personnel, because the extra fuel used during takeoff can be replenished in air.
“World events prove a long term enduring need for this NATO E-3A capability with its early warning capability and accordingly air refueling support,” said Kelk.
Recently, air refueling support has expanded to include both the Heavy Airlift Wing in Papa, Hungary and Operation Atlantic Resolve. Aside from providing air refueling support, the U.S. Air National Guard provides additional services to NATO AB Geilenkirchen including civil engineering projects, medical support, administrative and legal assistance.
“History shows we can rely on our NATO allies, and NATO can rely on the Air National Guard,” said Kelk.