AWACS In Operation
The E-3 system, deployed worldwide, has set enviable records of more than 20 years of service. In U.S. and NATO operations, the aircraft have significantly surpassed the standard for mission readiness, demonstrating an availability level of 95 percent. In comparison to competing systems, the E-3 has an extremely low maintenance-manhours-per-flight record.
The AWACS fleet has been an important deterrent to aggression, and an "eye in the sky" during times of tension and instability in Europe, the Far East and Middle East.
During the 1990-91 Persian Gulf conflict, 11 U.S. Air Force AWACS aircraft were deployed to Saudi Arabia, supplemented by three more from air bases in Turkey, two on standby in England, one on alert at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and five AWACS owned by the Royal Saudi Air Force.
When the allied air strikes began against Iraq, the AWACS role shifted from defense to a variety of tasks including surveillance, directing air strikes, interdiction of Iraqi airplanes, coordination of air-to-air refueling flights and protection of high-value aircraft conducting intelligence and ground surveillance.
One of AWACS' major responsibilities was keeping track of the thousands of sorties being flown by hundreds of coalition aircraft.
Some 845 AWACS sorties were flown, for a total of 10,500 hours. The AWACS fleet monitored 120,000 coalition sorties -- 2,000 to 3,000 per day -- and was instrumental in destroying virtually all of the 41 Iraqi aircraft shot down during the war.
NATO E-3s have been a major factor in the United Nations' ability to monitor and enforce the "no-fly" zone over Bosnia-Herzgovina. From July 1992 to September 1995, E-3 aircraft, including U.K. and French AWACS assets, flew nearly 5,000 missions totaling more than 39,000 hours in support of U.N. objectives in this region.