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    AWACS’ testers recall early years

    AWACS’ testers recall early years

    Courtesy Photo | Lt. Cols. Walter Ludwig and Peter von Grobbeck, second and third from the top of the...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Richard Longoria 

    NATO E-3A Component

    GEILENKIRCHEN, Germany - The E-3A Component had three special visitors take a trip down memory lane.

    Retired Col. Garry M. Long, retired Lt. Col. Walter Ludwig, and retired Lt. Col. Peter von Grobbeck, toured NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany, on Aug. 27, 2015.

    The lieutenant colonels were part of the first NATO AWACS crew and went through initial training at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, from July 1980 to December 1980. After completing their training, they were sent to Seattle. “We spent the next eight months learning about the equipment in the standard E-3A and how to test it,” explained Ludwig.

    Upon returning to Germany, the two men were assigned to Dornier Airfield in Oberpfaffenhofen. This is where they met Long, who would serve as their commander. Together, with a mixed crew of Germans, Americans and one Norwegian, they were responsible for testing all 18 NATO AWACS before they were delivered to the Component’s main operating base.

    All the aircraft would arrive at Dornier Airfield empty and the contractors would then install the rest of the equipment. They faced several challenges but the biggest was making sure the AWACS was mission ready. “Although the E-3As were built to the contract specifications, it was our job to make sure systems meet the needs of the operators,” said Long.

    To ensure the reliability of the aircraft, the team would push the AWACS to the limits. “We tried to do whatever we could,” said Ludwig.

    The testing of each aircraft would take approximately 200 days. Once the test conditions were fulfilled and passed, the E-3A was accepted by NATO and then delivered to the Component’s main operating base. The first AWACS was delivered to the MOB on Feb. 24, 1982, and N18 landed on May 2, 1985.

    This is where their stories start to drift apart. Long, a Vietnam veteran with more than 5,000 flying hours, went back to the U.S. to work the development of future Air Force technology.

    The lieutenant colonels would go on to serve as the Component’s first two tactical directors. “He was TD number one and I was TD number two,” Von Grobbeck said with a smile as he pointed at his former colleague and long-time friend. While Grobbeck left the Component in 1987 to take a position at the force command, Ludwig served at NATO Air Geilenkirchen until 1993.

    All three enjoyed their tour and were impressed by the upgrades inside the NATO AWACS. “With all the improved equipment, this looks like something out of a 'Star Wars' movie compared to what we tested,” said Long.



    Date Taken: 08.27.2015
    Date Posted: 08.27.2015 10:58
    Story ID: 174402
    Location: GEILENKIRCHEN, NW, DE 

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