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    Still going strong -- AWACS still important to mission at more than 30 years old



    Story by Staff Sgt. Timothy Boyer 

    380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

    UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - In a typical Air Force office you might expect to see a group of people working together to complete a mission. The airmen of the 963rd Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron are no different – except their office is in the sky inside a 152-foot long E-3 Sentry.

    The Sentry is an airborne warning and control system, or AWACS, and provides situational awareness of friendly, neutral and hostile activity and command and control of an area of responsibility, according to the Air Force fact sheet.

    “We use radar and other systems to interrogate aircraft within the area we work in,” explained Sacramento, Calif., native Staff Sgt. Patrick Tobin, 963 EAACS airborne radar technician. “Once we know the aircraft’s intentions, we pass that information down to ground agencies and other aircraft that use the information to keep themselves at a safe distance from the enemy and from each other.”

    It takes the entire team, split into four different sections, to perform the mission successfully, according to Tobin. The flight crew maintains the flight path and provides safe take-off, air refueling and landing. The technicians power up the different systems such as the computer systems and radars. The surveillance section converts the raw data into a usable air picture. Finally, the weapons section uses that data to communicate with other aircraft, providing tactical command and control.

    “No section is more important than the other,” Tobin said. “The cool thing about AWACS is that it really is a crew concept. Every single person in that aircraft has an important job, and if they don’t do that job correctly than the whole crew suffers because of it.”

    With each crew member playing an vital role, the ability to work together and understand all the roles is critically important. For this reason the crew, all from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, deploy and fly together throughout their time in Southwest Asia.

    “Before leaving we do a spin-up process during which we go through different simulations to make sure we are ready for whatever shows up when we get here,” Tobin said.

    Tobin explained that the AWACS has been flying since 1971, but with regular system upgrades it continues to be a valuable tool in and out of contingencies because of the unique capabilities it provides.

    “Every aircraft serves a different purpose and I think what makes us unique is that we’ve been around for so long and we are still in demand and used frequently all around the world,” he said.



    Date Taken: 02.18.2013
    Date Posted: 03.03.2013 06:49
    Story ID: 102836

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