NATO has announced it will deploy E-3 AWACS Airborne Early Warning planes in Poland and Romania to monitor Ukraine’s airspace.
In what is a significant escalation of the crisis, NATO has decided to dispatch surveillance planes with the aim to “enhance the alliance’s situational awareness.”
According to the BBC, the E-3A AWACS will be stationed in Poland and Romania, but the monitor flights will only take place over alliance territory.
Since NATO E-3s are usually deployed to Turkey, from where they could keep an eye on aerial movements over Crimea, the decision to base the “flying radars” also in Poland and Romania seems to be another symbolic act in response to the Russian invasion of Crimea, ahead of Sunday’s referendum to join Russia; a sign that NATO planes can “watch” the movements of the Russians from both the eastern and southern borders.
Still, the news would have been much more relevant if platform specialized in mapping ground targets (as the E-8C Joint Stars or the RAF Sentinel R1) were involved in the operation: so far Moscow has mainly employed ultra-low-level flying helicopters that could be difficult to detect even for an E-3 at that distance.
The news of the deployment, comes on the same day the U.S. has started moving a squadron of F-16s to Lask, in Poland, for joint drills with the Poland Air Force.
Image credit: NATO