Alliance AWACS Join the Fray

NATO will make its first direct contribution to the campaign against ISIS by deploying its E-3A Sentry AWACS to support coalition air operations, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced. Several countries including Australia, Britain, France, and the US have already contributed AWACS to operations over Iraq and Syria and NATO plans to “backfill national AWACS capabilities,” he said speaking at a meeting of allied defense ministers in Brussels, Feb. 11. Leaders also agreed on “assurance measures” for Turkey,? which has seen both airspace incursions by Russian aircraft operating over Syria, and an influx of refugees fleeing the conflict zone. Measures include deployment of Patriot air and missile defense systems, additional AWACS surveillance aircraft, and “enhanced maritime presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea,” according to the release. Konya AB, Turkey, is a permanent forward operating location for NATO’s E-3A Component and home to Turkey’s own 737-based AWACS fleet. The US previously announced it would end Patriot deployments to Turkey last year, citing shifting strategic priorities.