NATO AWACS airplanes deployed to Tinker

Thursday, October 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Five sophisticated airborne radar aircraft from a NATO base in Germany are being flown to Tinker Air Force Base to bolster homeland security and replace U.S. airplanes supporting the military action in Afghanistan.

The AWACS airplanes will fly air patrols over the United States, the first time NATO airplanes have been used for such a purpose, said Air Force Capt. Steven Rolenc.

``We work with NATO all the time,'' Rolenc said. ``We exercise with them. We train with them. We work to lessen communications barriers.''

Crews for the airplanes come from many of the nations belonging to NATO, including the United States, he said.

Responsibility for defense of U.S. and Canadian air space lies with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD. These airplanes will help with stepped up NORAD patrols that were instituted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Rolenc said the airplanes began arriving Tuesday and arrivals will continue through Thursday. The aircraft are flying in from Geilenkirchen, Germany, and will be accompanied by a Boeing 707 used to transport personnel and their equipment.

``They will be defending the homeland, flying combat air patrol,'' Rolenc said. ``They will be providing the capabilities that AWACS brings to the fight.''

Tinker's 552nd Air Control Wing, which has 28 AWACS airplanes and 3,400 military members, is participating in the U.S. military action against Afghanistan. The Airborne Warning and Control System airplanes are used to monitor battles on the ground or threats in the air.

The exact number of people deployed wasn't released. Tinker's 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron and 507th Air Refueling Wing, both reserve units, were also activated.

NATO is assisting the United States in its war against terrorism under the organization's Article 5, which states that an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all.

NATO has also used AWACS airplanes in Bosnia and the Blakans to assist in air operations.

AWACS airplanes are known for a distinctive disc mounted toward the back of the fuselage that looks like a giant Frisbee.