Amid raising tension with Russia NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft visit eastern Europe

After Russia moved nuclear-capable missiles to NATO’s doorstep, NATO surveillance planes make cameo visit to Eastern Europe. And celebrate 1,000 missions.

On Oct. 11, a NATO E-3A AWACS visited Amari airbase, Estonia. Two days later another E-3 flew to  Siauliai, Lithuania: symbolic moves, that shows the alliance’s commitment to maintaining a persistent presence in Eastern Europe, where Russia has recently deployed nuclear-capable missiles.

The visit to Siauliai airbase, in Lithuania, main operating base of NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission was preceded by a presentation of the NATO E-3 AWACS component E-3A at the 1st Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force in Warsaw. A visit that marked the surveillance plane’s 1,000th operational flight at NATO’s eastern flank since the beginning of Ukraine crisis.

The Boeing surveillance aircraft, one of the 16 E-3A AWACS planes based at Geilenkirchen, in Germany, was welcome to Warsaw by F-16 and MiG-29 jet fighters from the 31 and 23 Airbases of the Polish Air Force.


Besides the Director of the Arms Policy Department, Col. Karol Dymanowski, the E-3 visit to Poland was the opportunity to celebrate the 1,000 sorties of the NATO’s primary Airborne Early Warning & Control platform in eastern Europe with a meeting attended by Deputy Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, Div. Gen. Jan Śliwka, commander of the Geilenkirchen NATO E-3A Component Brig. Gen. Karsten Stoye, along with the crew of the AWACS aircraft.

Interestingly, 5 members of the multinational aircrew were Polish.

E-3A Sentry aircraft have been operating inside the Polish airspace since the 2000. Once Poland joined the NAPMO (NATO Early Warning and Control Program Management Organization) program, along with 15 other countries, Warsaw acquired a right to use the fleet of the 17 AWACS platforms that remain at the NATO’s disposal. Besides Geilenkirchen, the jets are also authorized to use the Polish airbases, such as the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base which is visited by them quite frequently.


AWACS airframes were involved in operations over Poland for the first time during the Fruit Fly/Eagle Talon exercise back in 2006, which was the first exercise with the participation of Sentry, following the acquisition of the F-16 Block 52+ jets, ten years ago On the other hand, the Geilenkirchen-based aircraft also provide support in organization of mass events, such as the Euro Football Cup organized back in 2012, or the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

This year, E-3A component participated in and supported the ANAKONDA-16 exercise, NATO Summit in Warsaw and the World Youth Day, as well as the Baltic Air Policing operation. According to the release issued by the Polish MoD, the Geilenkirchen component has also been closely cooperating with the Polish fighter pilots of the 1st and 2nd Tactical Aviation Wings, since 2015.

The operations undertaken by the airborne radar are also tied to a number of NATO initiatives, including the aforementioned BAP mission as well as the rotational presence of the NATO forces in the region, within the framework of the Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The E-3A airborne radar is available to the member states during the crisis, as well as during the exercises concerning the IADS (Integrated Air Defense System) or other significant allied training initiatives.


Image credit: Foto Poork’s Wojciech Mazurkiewicz


About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.


  1. Whenever i met common people with common sense, there was no tension. People who profit from selling weapons, oil, currency, they are another matter. Thats why they want war, crisis and death. They profit from the death and tragedy of others.

    Understanding is a three-edged sword: your side, their side and the truth somewhere in between. It is thanks to russians that nazis failed, thanks to russians (gorbatshov) europe was united.

    I admire and love all kinds of aviation, war hawks and butcher who kill innocents from above remotely using allied nations i see as cowards and murderers who will not escape justice. Also they kill 2 militants and create 10 anew, This did not work and will never work.

  2. The message to Russia is firm and clear. If you make a move against NATO the alliance will be ready. There is no way Russia could gain air superiority. The Russian Air Force would quickly be dispatched by NATO, and especially by U.S. F-22s and a few F-35s. All in all, it wouldn’t be a long air war.

  3. “nato’s doorstep” was forcefully moved towards Russia’s borders in
    violation of previous agreements, including yank “not” permanent
    military bases in the newly conquered territories with “nuclear-capable
    missile” capable launchers.
    BTW, Kaliningrad exclave (Königsberg) is russian territory…
    PS: “nuclear-capable missiles” have a name: Iskander-M, and they were there also 2 years ago…

    • Perhaps those countries were afraid of what Russia might do to them again, like, take them over! Russia has historically been an aggressive, expansionist country, so from their perspective (Poland, Romania, Hungary, etc.) it made sense to join NATO. And who is Russia to dictate what alliance a free country can and cannot join?

      Ukraine was too late to join NATO and they paid a price. Russian aggression and violation of a mutual treaty. The theft of Crimea. Let Moscow try that with a NATO member and let them see what happens. Russia is a military pipsqueek! A bully that needs a punch in the nose. I hope the U.S. and NATO gives them one. The Bear will be made into a rug!

  4. What a complete twist of facts “Russia moved it’s nuclear capable missiles to NATO doorstep” seriously!!? Russia has been at the same place for over 1000 years, long before this corporate mercenarie alliance even existed. Russia is just responding to hostile provocations by this so called “defensive” alliances (NATO) movement of their military infrastructure to Russias doorstep, something they have warned over a decade now that they perceive as a serious threat for their national security, and witch they would not tolerate in an era where the Soviet Union is since long just a faded memory. So the headline should really be like “Russia responding to NATO’s movement of offensive strategic capabilities to it’s doorstep”

  5. The Iskander-M are there to strike at the US missile defense if needed. About 90 to 120 seconds from launch to impact. But what worries the Russians is not the missile defense capability. The missile containers are identical to the ones with cruise missiles. And so, a defensive weapon becomes a first strike weapon.

    • Absolutely correct, that is the core issue, they can be armed with nuclear capable Tomahawks without even the host country knowing it in just minutes.

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