10 Facts About the E-3 AWACS Plane

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The E-3 Sentry is an American airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft developed by Boeing.

Here are ten interesting facts about the E-3 AWACS plane:

1. It proved to be an engineering marvel

The aircraft is capable of functioning as a mobile radar control tower, serving as the US’ eyes on the sky. The E-3 is a massive warning and control system designed as early as 1963. 

2. The aircraft owes its iconic look to the massive 30-foot wide circular radar found above its hull

This was playfully called the ‘oreo’ by the crew. This massive antenna is manned by over 30 specialists and gives the Sentry unparalleled capabilities. 

3. It can penetrate enemy territory at high speeds and altitudes

This is to function as a flying surveillance Super Center that provides live aerial intelligence to friendly aircraft in the region. 

4. It can also detect, identify and track aircraft from the ground to the stratosphere, and over 400 miles around the plane

The data gathered by the crew is then transferred to friendly warplanes, ships, or any command center in the area. 

Its powerful surveillance process allows the US and its allies to do the most complicated airborne operations in any part of the world, even if they don’t have any conventional radar coverage.

5. The technology of the aircraft has evolved throughout the decades

This makes the E3 one of the world’s most capable surveillance aircraft solutions. 

6. Currently, the US Air Force has over 30 Sentries for operational use

On the other hand, NATO has acquired 18 E-3’s which have been used previously to watch the skies over Europe and look out for any aerial attacks. Countries like France, Britain, Chile, and Saudi Arabia have also bought E3 Sentries to boost their air surveillance capabilities. 

7. It is one of the warplanes that has the highest survivability rates in the world

Any incoming attacks can easily be detected long before it reaches the aircraft. It’s also always escorted by fighters that destroy the incoming threat before it could even scratch the giant radar aircraft. 

8. Its radar technology was so advanced that its crew could not only detect incoming aircraft but also know the exact model and armament they were carrying

The radar system in the aircraft is so powerful that an incoming aircraft attack has virtually zero chances of getting within an attack range of the Sentry before being blown into the skies by fighter escorts.  

9. The E3 Sentry became an overwhelming success story to the US and its allies

The plane was so valuable that even when the Boeing 707 on which the Sentry was based was obsolete, the US Air Force continued to support the technology.

10. The most prominent deployment of E3s would take place right after the 9/11 attacks

During this time, NATO and the US Air Force committed over 4300 flight hours from October 9, 2001, to May 16, 2002. These missions included an impressive surveillance operation covering vast territories across the mainland US.