NATO Begins Whittling AWACS Fleet

The multinational NATO E-3A Component is retiring the first of several AWACS aircraft from its fleet at Geilenkirchen AB, Germany, as part of a downsizing effort mandated by recent Alliance directives. “No one decisions stands out as the overarching reason for this reduction in force,” wrote E-3A Component Commander Maj Gen Andrew Mueller in a recent base newsletter. “Taken in combination, these decisions direct the reduction in both the size and capability of the E-3A Component,” he said. Current plans dictate cutting the 17-strong fleet to 14 aircraft by 2017, starting with the retirement of the first aircraft to Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., later this month, according to a June 8 Geilenkirchen release. NATO is upgrading the remaining E-3s with modern cockpits, avionics, and other improvements, which are slated for completion by 2018. The Alliance-owned fleet is routinely augmented by member assets—notably British and US E-3s—and NATO reductions could be partially offset by more members contributing. “Nations such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy, offer the potential to provide NATO a larger [AWACS] force in the future,” stated Mueller.