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The E-3A Component

E-3A Component 25th Anniversary The E-3A Component is one of two operational elements of the NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Force. It is NATO’s first multinational operational flying unit, making it unique in military history. The Component’s mission is to provide aircraft and trained aircrews to deliver a surveillance and/or control platform whenever directed by the NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Force Commander on behalf of the NATO commander, The Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR).

The actual build-up of the E-3A Component started in January 1980; in October 1980 it was granted the status of a NATO International Military Headquarters by the NATO Defense Planning Committee (DPC). Flying operations began in February 1982 after delivery of the first E-3A aircraft. The Component was officially activated on 28 June 1982 and reached “Full Operational Capability” by the end of 1988.

The Component consists of five main functional areas: the Operations Wing, Logistics Wing, Training Wing, Information Technology Wing and Headquarters as well as other normal staff functions. Each of these major units is commanded by a colonel from a variety of NATO nations. The position of the Component commander alternates between a German and American Brigadier General. Overall integrated manning of the Component consists of 2900 multinational military and civilian personnel. This figure includes military and civilian personnel in support functions, such as base civil engineering, national support units and morale and welfare activities.

Seventeen E-3A aircraft are assigned to the Component. Normally, only a number of the E-3As are at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen at any given time. The remainder deploys to the Component’s Forward Operating Bases in Aktion, Greece; Trapani, Italy; and Konya, Turkey and its Forward Operating Location at Ørland, Norway or other allied airfields. Each of the forward operating facilities is located on a national installation, although the Component has approximately 20 personnel at each site. They are NATO personnel assigned to the Component, but all are from the respective host nations.

Thirty multinational aircrews from 16 of NATO’s 28 nations are assigned to the Component’s three operational E-3A squadrons. The Training Wing has a flying squadron as well, the Aircrew Training Squadron.

 

Main Operating Base Geilenkirchen

NATO 50th Anniversary Home of the NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Force Command’s E-3A Component, NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen is located four kilometers west of Geilenkirchen, the Federal Republic of Germany, adjacent to the Netherlands border.

The Component’s Main Operating Base (MOB) was handed over to NATO from the host nation on 31 March 1982.

Surrounded by farmland and a natural woodland preserve, the base was originally built by the British Royal Air Force after World War II. Known as RAF Geilenkirchen (or Flugplatz Teveren by the local population), the British used the facilities as a fighter installation for various RAF fighter squadrons from May 1953 until January 1968.

Flying operations at Geilenkirchen ended in January 1968 and the installation was handed over to the German Air Force in March 1968. In August that same year, it became the home of the German Surface-to-Surface Missile Wing Number 2 equipped with Pershing missiles and supported by the U.S. Army’s 85th Field Artillery Detachment.

After the decision to make the base the E-3A Component MOB, a major construction programme began in 1980 to modify operational and support facilities to accommodate the E-3A unit. Since then, the majority of the buildings on base have been renovated to present day standards and numerous new buildings have been erected.

Major construction on base, that covers 620 hectares/1,530 acres, included a new 3,4 kilometer/10,000 feet runway that is 45 meters/150 feet wide, aprons and taxiways, a control tower, the Information Technology Wing building (which also houses the flight and mission simulator facilities), on base housing and major renovations to the four existing hangars.

In January 1980 the first Component personnel started arriving at the base. By the end of 1981, the German Pershing Wing had left the base and moved to Niederheid, north of Geilenkirchen while the U.S.Army’s 85th Detachment remained on base until being de-activated in July 1991.