In order to operate the complex equipment on an AWACS, the E-3A/D has a crew of 16 drawn from a variety of branches and trades, all of whom are extensively trained in their respective roles. The maximum crew the E-3A can accommodate is 33.
The Aircraft Commander (AC)
is the pilot in command and is responsible for the safety of the aircraft and its occupants. Both pilots are fully qualified to operate the aircraft. Pilots ensure 'hands on' time is shared evenly. The First Pilot (FP) is also responsible for radio communication and the monitoring of navigation radio aids when not in control of the aircraft.
The Navigator (NN) duties include ensuring the aircraft reaches and maintains its orbit position, often in airspace giving little margin for error.
The Flight Engineer (FE) is responsible for monitoring the engine power and flight performance of the aircraft.
The Tactical Director (TD)
is responsible for the overall conduct of the mission as tasked by the operating authorities. He is the senior member of the mission crew and liaises directly with the operating authorities.
The Surveillance Controller (SC) who provides an optimum radar picture and operates the digital data links commands the surveillance team. Working for him are three Surveillance operators (SOs) and a Passive Controller (PC) who assist the SC to compile the recognized air and surface picture for transmission to the ground and other airborne units.
The Data Links Manager (only on board the E-3D) is responsible for the management
of data links in accordance with the operational task. This person is also the deputy for the
Surveillance Controller (SC) as necessary.
The Passive Controller (PC)
is responsible to enhance the air picture, ID procedures and E-3A self-protection through passive detection of emitters and platforms. On board the E-3D this position is called the ESM Operator.
The weapons team is headed by the Fighter Allocator (FA)
who is responsible for the safe conduct of all aircraft, which have been allocated to the E-3A to control. His two Weapons Controllers (WCs)
can control a wide variety of air missions including Offensive and Defensive Counter Air operations using fighters, Close Air Support and Battlefield Air Interdiction using bombers and a wide variety of operational support aircraft.
Because of the complexity of the on-board systems, the E-3A employs airborne technicians who initialize, monitor and provide basic maintenance of the highly sophisticated mission equipment:
The Communications Technicians (CT) initializes, manages and monitors the highly sophisticated on-board communication equipment. On board the E-3D the CT works together with an Communications Operator.
The System Technician (ST)
initializes, runs and maintains the on-board computer systems which are the heart of the mission equipment. On board the E-3D this position is called the Display Technician (DT)
The Radar Technician (RT)
runs the mission radar without which there would be no mission. He liaises with the SC and the ST to provide the best possible radar picture for the surveillance and weapons teams to work with.