AWACS radar planes deployed to Middle East

Monday, September 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Some of the U.S. Air Force's fleet of sophisticated airborne radar aircraft have been ordered to the Middle East, U.S. Air Force officials said Sunday.

AWACS aircraft based at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City received deployment orders over the weekend. But officials revealed few specifics about their overseas mission.

``We can't compromise the security of the mission,'' said Air Force Capt. Steven Rolenc, spokesman for the 552nd Air Control Wing.

``We're cocked and ready to go. We've been ready since Sept. 11,'' Rolenc said.

The E-3 Sentry airplanes are used to monitor battles on the ground or threats in the air.

Since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, AWACS, which stands for Airborne Warning and Control System, have been used solely for monitoring U.S. air space.

Although some AWACS aircraft are being deployed, Americans need not worry about not being covered overhead, said Capt. Kel Robinson, 552 Air Control Wing executive officer and an AWACS air battle manager.

``We'll continue to support homeland defense as needed. We're ready,'' Robinson said.

Tinker houses 28 of the Air Force's AWACS planes and 3,420 military personnel including 780 officers, 2,600 enlisted personnel and 40 Canadian military officials.

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

``The men and women of Oklahoma are going to support this war,'' Rolenc said.

AWACS crews have been working 24 hours a day since Sept. 11, in what has been dubbed Operation Noble Eagle, protecting American skies, Rolenc said.

Rolenc said crews are well-prepared to leave quickly in the AWACS, modified Boeing 707 aircraft with rotating radar domes on top.

``This is what we train to do on a daily basis, it's what we're good at. This is a test of our combat capability,'' Rolenc said.