Canada Ending its NATO AWACS Role

By Ken Pole | September 30, 2011

Estimated reading time 2 minutes, 38 seconds.

Boeing Photo.
September 30, 2011 Canada long-standing commitment to the NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control (NAEW&C) program will begin winding down late next year, a victim of the federal government deficit-reduction strategy. The Department of National Defence provided exclusive confirmation of the news to Canadian Skies in an e-mail dated September 29, nearly four months after Defence Minister Peter MacKay broached the prospect to his NATO counterparts in a meeting at the organization headquarters in Brussels.
The precise date of the withdrawal has yet to be decided, but the Department of National Defence told Canadian Skies that it will not be implemented earlier than fall 2012. ¬DND said that over the past year, it had identified numerous efficiencies that do not affect the core capabilities or readiness of our military, as part of the government’s efforts to ensure best value for tax dollars. Details of the efficiencies evidently were still being finalized and would be announced in due course.
Canada has historically been the third-largest financial supporter and contributor of personnel to NAEW&C. The program main operating base is at Geilenkirchen Air Base in Germany, and there are forward operating bases in Greece, Italy, Turkey and Norway. The average annual cost to Canada has been approximately $50 million and DND said that it is also participating in a number of NAEW&C modernization projects at an estimated cost of some $8.5 million in the current fiscal year.
Aircrews from 17 countries, including 113 Canadians at last count, operate a fleet of 18 Boeing E-3A Sentry platforms, 707s with rotating radar domes and powerful sensor suites, providing all-weather surveillance, command, control and communications to allied forces currently over Libya as a key element of Task Force Libeccio. Orbiting at 30,000 feet, out of range of most ground-based missiles, a single E-3A provides a gods-eye view of the theatre, monitoring more than 12,000 square miles, identifying threats and directing allied air resources to deadly effect. The program has been so successful that even as Canada is planning to withdraw, several other NATO countries are training crews for an expanded AWACS role.

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