Home > Uncategorized > Mediterranean Mission: NATO AWACS Visit Malta

Mediterranean Mission: NATO AWACS Visit Malta

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Allied Command Operations

October 22, 2013

A combined task for NATO AWACS: Operation Active Endeavour and Malta International Air Show
Staff Sgt. Richard Longoria


VALLETTA, Malta: NATO AWACS has been patrolling the Mediterranean Sea on a regular basis in support of NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) since December 2009.

OAE is part of NATO’s multi-faceted response to current terrorist threats. The mission is to conduct maritime operations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar to actively demonstrate NATO’s resolve to help defend and protect against terrorism by deterring and disrupting it.

Earlier this month, it was Squadron Two’s turn to cover the assigned sectors of the Mediterranean Sea.

When doing so, NATO AWACS collects valuable information which helps build the maritime surface picture for NATO commanders. This time, the OAE had an out-of-the-ordinary Op-Stop on Sept. 28-29 in Malta, a small island-state located south of Sicily. The reason: participation in the 2013 Malta International Air Show with the E-3A on static display.

The second part of the OAE mission started with an early show time on Monday for the Squadron Two crew. The E-3A aircraft is well equipped for these missions with its radar tuned to maritime mode, the Automated Identification System, and CHAT capability in place. The information collected by NATO AWACS is transmitted directly to the Allied Maritime Command Headquarters in Northwood, United Kingdom, where data from various contributors are fused into a recognized maritime surface picture.

Major Charles Riffou, the tactical director and deployment commander, explains, “The data that we collect during these missions completes the picture of ship movements in the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. Together with the information obtained from our other onboard sensors, we can plot the location, heading and speed of unidentified vessels in our area of responsibility and take appropriate action such as vectoring other assigned flying assets to take a closer look. The mobility of the E-3A allows enhanced coverage in areas less visited by allied forces…”

Surveillance Operator Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Obers explains, “It is our task to identify ships. If our system detects a vessel but cannot identify it, and we don’t get a positive reply, we ask NATO assets to visually go check the situation…”

The navigator on the flight deck performs an important function in this. During this mission it is navigator Lt. Col. Patric Wurmbach who explains, “I operate the navigation systems and solve navigation problems if they occur. I’m coordinating constantly with the mission crew and the aircraft commander about the route of the flight and whether it is in line with the mission tasking. Fuel availability, alternate and emergency airfields and weather updates are also tracked.”

Since December 2009, the E-3A Component has flown more than 2,000 hours in support of NATO’s OAE.

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