NATO E-3 AWACS
The NATO E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) is a highly mobile, survivable surveillance system designed to strengthen and significantly improve air defense systems in Europe.
Boeing, as prime contractor, teamed with subcontractors in the Federal Republic of Germany, Canada and the United States to provide the NATO alliance with 18 E-3 systems as part of the largest commonly funded acquisition program ever undertaken by the alliance.
In the late 1960s, NATO commanders recognized the need to provide an improved early warning and detection capability against the emerging low-altitude penetration threat posed by the Warsaw Pact.
The most effective way to solve this air-defense problem is to use an airborne early warning (AEW) system that possesses radar with long-range and "look down" capability. The latter provides the ability to detect and track targets amidst the ground-clutter returns that degrade and confuse other air-defense radars.
After a series of NATO-sponsored studies from 1971 through 1975, the Conference of National Armaments Directors selected the U.S. Air Force E-3 from the candidate AEW systems as offering the best operational solution. This led to establishment of a multinational provisional Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) Program Office by the NATO defense ministers in 1975.
NATO then carried out a series of configuration, cost and performance studies that included the E-3 and its integration with the air-defense ground-environment systems. The intent was to maximize the "force-enhancing" effect inherent in these air-defense elements.
The European environment required several modifications to the U.S. Air Force E-3, and these were combined with planned U.S. Air Force enhancements to form the basis of the "standard" configuration. The program featured a single development program, with both the U.S. Air Force and NATO utilizing the same basic configuration.
This provided economies of production and met the objectives of industrial collaboration, standardization and interoperability.
In 1978, development was initiated on the standard-configuration E-3 by the alliance, while the national governments performed an in-depth review of the proposal and came to an agreement on acquisition and cost-sharing arrangements. The defense ministers met in December 1978 and signed a multilateral memorandum of understanding to acquire a NATO-owned Airborne Early Warning and Control System.
The NATO AEW&C Program Management Organization (NAPMO) was established to manage the acquisition program of the 18 aircraft and supporting equipment and trainers. Additional NAPMO responsibilities included modifying the NATO air-defense ground-environment system necessary to provide data exchange and interoperability; activating the Main Operating Base at Geilenkirchen, Germany, and other operating facilities in northern- and southern-flank nations; constructing maintenance and repair facilities at the MOB; and establishing a training center to assist the multinational force that operates the NATO E-3 fleet. This office continues to manage the modernization of the NATO aircraft and supporting elements.
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