Tinker Celebrates AWACS 30th Anniversary

Saturday, June 30th 2007, 2:22 pm

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Tinker Air Force Base celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Airborne Warning and Control System with a nod to Oklahoma's upcoming 100th birthday. Officials on Friday unveiled a new design on the front of one of the E-3 Sentry airplanes that links the aircraft with Oklahoma.

The Centennial Sentry features a graphic designed by two Tinker airmen, 1st Lt. Chris Chester and 1st Lt. Gerrit Dahlman, showing an E-3 Sentry over a globe, with the Oklahoma flag waving next to it.

The E-3 featuring the Centennial Sentry graphic was the first plane delivered in 1977 to the 552nd Air Control Wing, which is based at Tinker, officials said.

Col. Lori J. Robinson, commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing, recounted many of the operations in which AWACS played a pivotal role, including Operation Desert Storm and continued missions over Iraq and Afghanistan.

``Our heritage is rich because of each of you, the trails that you blazed and the wars that you fought,'' Robinson said.

Tinker personnel also celebrated the AWACS 30th anniversary with a memorial service to the Yukla-27, the E-3 that crashed in 1995 shortly after it took off from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. A crew of 24 American and Canadian fliers died in the crash, which investigators think was caused when several geese were sucked into two of the aircraft's engines.

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins told those attending the ceremony inside a hangar at Tinker that she will always link the E-3 and its huge rotating radar dome with Oklahoma and Tinker.

``I was a first-year law student when I first saw this plane with a mushroom on it flying in the Oklahoma sky,'' Askins said.

``I think it's only fitting that as we talk about 100 years of Oklahoma, 60 years of the Air Force and 30 years of AWACS that it is clearly a rising partnership together.''

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