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News > Eyes in the sky: Deployed AWACS Airmen light up the stratosphere for combat ops
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 The only E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft operating in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility with the 965th EAACS are a part of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. In 2009, Airmen with the deployed AWACS unit flew 374 sorties, handling 22,103 aircraft and supporting 994 events of "troops in contact," or TICs.
 
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Airmen prepare E-3 Sentry for deployed air mission
First Lt. Anthony Dorazio, E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft co-pilot, and Staff Sgt. Abel Carillo, flight engineer, prepare an E-3 Sentry for a mission during operations at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia on Feb. 16, 2010. Both Airmen are deployed with the 965th Expeditionary Aircraft Airborne Air Control Squadron -- part of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. Their home station is Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. Lieutenant Dorazio's hometown is Clovis, N.M., and Sergeant Carillo's hometown is San Antonio, Texas. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol/Released)
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Related Factsheets
 E-3 Sentry (AWACS)
Eyes in the sky: Deployed AWACS Airmen light up the stratosphere for combat ops

Posted 3/3/2010   Updated 3/4/2010 Email story   Print story

    


by Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


3/3/2010 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Every time they prepare for a mission, deployed E-3 Sentry flight and mission crew members surely think about getting the plane ready and knowing every special instruction line-by-line for their mission. But somewhere in the back of their minds, they know they have to be successful because of the troops on the ground.

"What we have to do on each mission is critical -- especially when we are over Afghanistan," said Master Sgt. Dustin Rayl, senior air surveillance technician with the 965th Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron. "We have the best communications system so we can relay the information to our airborne assets who are down there supporting the guys on the ground. We can assist the ground controllers when it actually comes to giving the ground guys some help. Helping them is first and foremost."

The only E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft operating in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility with the 965th EAACS are a part of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. In 2009, Airmen with the deployed AWACS unit flew 374 sorties, handling 22,103 aircraft and supporting 994 events of "troops in contact," or TICs.

The 2009 numbers, courtesy of Mr. Ralph Jackson of the 380th AEW History Office, signifies the number of times E-3 Sentry aircraft circled over a "hot" area and directed fighter aircraft providing close-air support for troops on the ground in contact with enemy forces.

"They've been continuing this effort this year," Mr. Jackson said. "In January, they flew 34 sorties, handled 1,687 aircraft and responded to TICs. Our historical data shows they met all of their tasked sorties for January which means they were on target 100 percent of the time."

Capt. Amanda Young, an air surveillance officer with the 965th EAACS whose job it is to manage the air surveillance section of an E-3, described how they directly help troops on the ground get the best from the airborne command and control battle management platform.

"We help extend the range in communication," said Captain Young. "In places like Afghanistan, with its geographic dynamics such as mountains, we provide that vital communications relay with the ground so they have eyes on what's going on in the war."

Captain Young's section, through the work of the airborne radar and surveillance technicians, creates an "air picture" for the E-3's air weapons section. Airman 1st Class Keith Williams, a 965th EAACS air surveillance technician, said how important it is to have picture established.

"After we get the picture up and everything is running, our job is to track any airborne assets and identify them so we can know what's in the air," Airman Williams said. "If there is a problem, we can direct the proper assets to take care of the problem.

"Having that air picture helps the mission crew commander because he has to know everything that goes on," Airman Williams added. "He has to have a complete picture of what everything is that's going on around him. The weapons department, they need to know if we might be in danger or not and where they should send their assets - whether it's in the air or on the ground."

In executing the E-3's air battle management strategy, the weapons section of the E-3 uses the plane's radar and computer subsystems to gather and present "broad and detailed battlefield information." According to the E-3 Sentry's Air Force fact sheet, in support of air-to-ground operations, the Sentry can provide direct information needed for interdiction, reconnaissance, airlift, air refueling and close-air support for friendly ground forces. It can also provide information for commanders of air operations to gain and maintain control of the air battle.

"The important thing for us to do is to identify air assets in place and control them in accordance with the special instructions we were given," said Capt. Samuel Young, an E-3 air weapons officer with the 965th EACCS. "We're kind of like a safety net. We take those assets and make sure they are employed accordingly with the instructions we have."

Captain Lawrence said the function of the weapons section is "incredibly important" because it keeps everything safe.

"We can see a lot of the traffic when we are up on a mission," Captain Lawrence said. "If there is bad weather out there, for example, we can keep an eye out and manage each situation. In our section with several weapons officers, we split up the work load. Each of us has a different responsibility. We keep on with that responsibility and we communicate through our objectives as they come up."

All the time the weapons section and air surveillance Airmen are up on their multi-hour combat missions, the flight crew is up at the front of the plane on the flight deck steering the plane straight into the action.

"Through managing my panel on the flight deck and on back through the rest of the plane, what we all do works together," said Staff Sgt. Abel Carillo, E-3 Sentry flight engineer from the 965th EAACS. "In my job when we are flying, I look at what I can do to help the Airmen in the back to know how long we will be out and what the aircraft is doing as we are flying it. There's also the comfort level -- I control the temperature in the aircraft. With all the equipment we carry, keeping a close eye on the temp is important. Basically, anything I can do to make it easier for the mission crew to keep on with their work is important to us being successful."

Senior Airman Jerrome Kamish, E-3 air radar technician, said all of the AWACS aircrew Airmen look at the "big picture" of why they are deployed - to support the troops on the ground.

"In the big, overall picture, with radar we can find where the enemy airplanes are so we're able to pinpoint where the enemy is, where our own troops are, and bring that extra edge to combat," Airman Kamish said. "It's through that and other ways where we help troops get the support they need. It's why we're here."



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