Libya has completed the task of the NATO E-3A AWACS
On the afternoon of 1st of November 2011 the last two E-3A aircraft returned from Operation Unified Protector to Geilenkirchen Air Base. These aircraft had flown the very last missions on 31st of October during the NATO operation over Libya. Brigadier General Burkhard Pototzky, Commander of the E-3A Component, welcomed the crews at Geilenkirchen Air Base. He said, "Your work and sacrifice during the last seven months has truly tested our ability to deploy, maintain, sustain and finish victoriously".
Operation Unified Protector was launched under a UN mandate to protect the people of Libya. It is seen as one of the most successful operations in NATO’s history. The E-3A Component Commander highlighted the contribution of the E 3A aircraft to the overall success of the operation, especially with regard to the enforcement of the No-Fly Zone and the arms embargo: "The AWACS is a shining example of NATO's resolve and what we can do to defend freedom across the globe".
Brigadier General Pototzky summarized the E-3A Component's impressive contribution to Operation Unified Protector: Between the end of March 2011 and the end of October, E-3A aircraft conducted 247 sorties over Libya. During the operation, the aircraft from Geilenkirchen were based at Forward Operating Base Trapani, in Sicily, Italy. Overall 2,125 flight hours were flown. Every mission flight was successful.
The AWACS aircraft of the E-3A Component were mainly used as Command and Control platforms and ensured via modern high-capacity data link communication to other aircraft as well as to ships in the Mediterranean. The E-3A Component has thereby demonstrated once again its unique capabilities with the airborne warning and control system (AWACS).
Last Air Mission of Unified Protector concluded
31 Oct. 2011, at midnight Libyan time, a NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AWACS) conlcuded the last flight of Operation Unified Protector. With this, a successful chapter in NATO's history has come to an end.
Since the beginning of the NATO operation, NATO air assets conducted over 26,500 sorties, including over 9,700 strike sorties to protect the people of Libya from attack or the threat of attack.
NATO AWACS performed the crucial function of commanding and controlling all NATO air assets operating over Libya. This included the issuing of real-time tactical orders and taskings to Alliance fighter aircraft, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, air-to-air refuellers or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). NATO AWACS also supported the NATO ships and submarines enforcing the maritime arms embargo against Libya by providing an aerial maritime surveillance capability.
On 1 November 2011, all NATO AWACS will return to their home airbase in Geilenkirchen, Germany. All other aircraft, ships and submarines which contributed to the mission will return home and revert back to national command.
Source: 31 Oct. 2011 - http://www.nato.int
Photo: The last two E-3A returning from Operation Unified Protector to NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen after landing.
E-3A Component Commander, Brig.Gen. Burkhard Pototzky (right), and NAEW&C Force Commander, Maj.Gen. Stephen D. Schmidt (left), welcoming the crews at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen. (photo by http://www.e3a.nato.int)