Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Janes Defence Weekly Magazine August 03, 2011

The Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) is providing a key link in passing attack authorisations to NATO strike aircraft operating over Libya. Tight rules of engagement designed to prevent accidental attacks on civilians mean NATO leaders have in most cases passed authority to attack ground targets in Libya to senior air commanders based in the alliance's Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Poggio Renatico Airbase in northern Italy. They rely on French, NATO, UK and US E-3s to act as communications hubs to ensure attack orders can be transmitted in a matter of minutes to fast jets operating over Libya, according to UK E-3D personnel flying on Operation United Protector from Forward Operating Base (FOB) Trapani in Sicily. Battle management specialist flying on the AWACS aircraft also play a key role in compiling bomb damage assessments that are passed up to the CAOC to help targeting officers make rapid decisions or to authorise air strikes. UK Royal Air Force (RAF) AWACS crews say that this process involves talking over the radio to NATO pilots with "eyes on" the target, as well as co-ordinating with alliance intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance (ISTAR) assets monitoring what is termed the battle management area (BMA). This area covers Libya's land mass and parts of the central Mediterranean Sea.