The E-3A Component
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
2,000 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.
Sixteen 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 15 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.