In the early 1970’s, Studies directed by NATO’s major military commanders showed that an airborne early warning (AEW) radar system would significantly enhance the air defense capabilities of the alliance. In December 1978, the defense planning committee signed a MoU Memorandum of Understanding to buy and operate a NATO-funded AEW system. By this decision, the member nations embarked on NATO’s largest commonly funded acquisition program. NATO’s defense planning committee established the NATO Airborne Early Warning Force (NAEWF) in January 1980 and granted full NATO command headquarters status on October 17th the same year. Today, NAEWF consists of two operational elements:
- The NATO E-3A Component at Geilenkirchen, Germany, operating 17 Boeing E-3A Sentry (AWACS) aircraft, manned with integrated international crews from 15 nations.
- The AEW squadron nr. 8 of the RAF located at RAF Waddington, U.K., with seven E-3D aircraft, manned by RAF personel.