E-3 AWACS strengthen interoperability during BALTOPS
By Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 10, 2018
NATO AIR BASE GEILENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Two E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft assigned to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, partnered with NATO allies in support of Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) June 6, 2018.
An E-3 AWACS assigned to the 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron and a second Air Reserve Component AWACS assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron were the participating aircraft for the exercise.
The Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, is a powerful airborne search and track radar system using a rotating dome attached 11 feet above the top of the aircraft. The AWACS provides all-weather surveillance, command, control and communications needed by commanders of U.S. and NATO air defense forces.
“Our unit is here as a command and control function in the air,” said 1st Lt. Ronnie Birge, E-3 AWACS air battle manager assigned to the 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron. “We’re making sure that all the players are safe while they’re flying and on the ground, while giving them tactical control out there to create a safe environment to train.”
BALTOPS is an annual joint, multinational maritime-focused exercise designed to improve training value for participants, enhance flexibility and interoperability, and demonstrate resolve among allied partner forces in defending the Baltic Sea region.
The exercise will involve maritime, ground and air forces so as to strengthen combined response capabilities necessary to ensure regional stability.
This year’s exercise provides a rare opportunity for reservists and active duty Airmen to develop total force capabilities, in support of BALTOPS.
“This type of total force integration allows us to work with our reservist counterparts on a much more direct level of maintenance,” said Tech Sgt. Allan Lamb, E-3 AWACS electrical environmental systems craftsman assigned to the 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron. “An exercise like this allows us to understand how their structures work and more effective ways to complete tasks with groups of people we haven’t worked with previously.”
Participation in multinational exercises, such as BALTOPS, enhances defense relationships and improves overall coordination and interoperability between allies and partner militaries.
There is no substitute for interoperability among active duty U.S. Air Force, U.S. Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and NATO allies operating in Europe.
“This exercise is very beneficial for our traditional reservists,” said Master Sgt. Brian Green, E-3 AWACS surveillance radar technician assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron. “The training [with active duty] is excellent and it keeps our skills sharp and keeps us where we need to be to do our jobs efficiently.”
More than 5,700 personnel, 17 countries, and more than 40 aircraft are participating in the exercise which is scheduled to end June 15.