British Sentry visits American brethren at Tinker
By Staff Sgt. Stacy Fowler, 552nd Air Control Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 30, 2007
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla -- "Coalition AWACS training."
That's the term used by several members of the 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron when their British brethren arrived for their first joint briefings on April 11.
Members of the E-3D Sentry No. 8 Squadron, Royal Air Force Waddington, United Kingdom, conducted a liaison visit to the 552nd Air Control Wing April 10-17 to open the doors for mission training and partnership.
"Our flying units don't get together often enough for face-to-face interaction," said Squadron Leader Clive "Scottie" Scott, 8 Squadron deployed commander. "We've always worked well together in allied operations, especially with our American cousins. We wish to build a strong and productive relationship with the U.S. Air Force in order to improve coalition operations in the future."
The British E-3D and the American E-3B/C Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft are very similar in many ways: both conduct the same kind of command and control missions and air surveillance operations, and also act as defensive and offensive fighter control, as well as assist with search and rescue missions.
And it's these similarities that enable the various crewmembers to work together and explore the aircraft and differences in procedure.
"We have worked closely with the U.S. AWACS in recent coalition operations," Squadron Leader Scott said. "However, the rapid role change of the E-3 platforms from purely airborne early warning to that of present-day true AWACS capabilities has resulted in a need to improve our joint effectiveness by rationalizing our common operational procedures. But that's why it's so important for us to have these kinds of training opportunities. We've already gained so much from this face-to-face, and we've only been here a few days!"
Crews from 8 Squadron have participated in frequent exercises within the United States, and on occasions have flown as simulated opposition against the American E-3C Sentry during exercise scenarios. In addition, the United Kingdom and U.S. Air Force mission crews frequently participate in Virtual Flag Exercises, which test joint operational procedures in high intensity war-fighting scenarios.
"It was great being able to fly with the British crews on their jet," said Senior Airman Tyler Farrell, 963rd AACS. "There were just enough things that were the same to make it comfortable, and it just made the differences more interesting! We were able to see their procedures during their missions for air surveillance and fighter control, and they answered whatever questions we could think of."
This kind of knowledge and training, for both British and American E-3 crews, is also very important for current and future operations. E-3D aircraft flew along side the E-3B/Cs during many operations in southwest Asia such as Allied Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and they also partake in numerous exercises in the area.
"This kind of training and interaction is extremely important," said Flight Lt. Matt Brunton, a British E-3 liaison currently stationed here in the 552nd Operation Support Squadron. "When we go to war, we go together - and we must be able to know how the different aircraft work, and how we can work together to overcome any shortfalls."
Other E-3D Units from RAF Waddington are scheduled to visit Tinker during the next few months to help expand training opportunities for all E-3 crews. In the mean time, 8 Squadron AWACS, RAF Waddington, has paired operations with the 963rd AACS here, and the 962nd AACS in Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.