NATO Eyes Antimissile Gains in Surveillance-Plane Upgrades

A NATO airborne warning and control system, or "AWACS," aircraft takes off from an alliance air base at Geilenkirchen, Germany, in March 2011. Officials have begun discussions for replacing the surveillance aircraft with a more-capable fleet sometime in the 2030s.
National Journal
Sebastian Sprenger
April 23, 2014, 10:26 a.m.

NATO has be­gun ini­tial de­lib­er­a­tions for up­grad­ing the al­li­ance’s sur­veil­lance-air­craft fleet, with an eye to­ward im­prov­ing its mis­sile-de­fense cap­ab­il­it­ies.

At is­sue is the way for­ward in re­pla­cing the al­li­ance-owned Air­borne Early Warn­ing and Con­trol air­craft — Boe­ing E-3 Sen­try planes com­monly known by the ac­ronym AWACS — some­time in the 2030s. Giv­en the ex­pect­a­tion of a long ac­quis­i­tion pro­cess for the pro­ject, some of­fi­cials be­lieve that the time is now to be­gin plan­ning.

De­fense ac­quis­i­tion lead­ers from the United States, France, the United King­dom, Ger­many, and Italy dis­cussed plans on April 2 at a so-called Five Powers meet­ing in Brus­sels, ac­cord­ing to the gath­er­ing’s writ­ten agenda pre­pared for par­ti­cipants.

The NATO In­dus­tri­al Ad­vis­ory Group, a pan­el of de­fense-in­dustry ex­ec­ut­ives provid­ing coun­sel on mil­it­ary hard­ware, has ad­di­tion­ally be­gun study­ing what kinds of new tech­no­lo­gies should go in­to the next-gen­er­a­tion air­craft, ac­cord­ing to the sum­mary of a March 31 meet­ing ob­tained by Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire.

While there is not yet a form­al, al­li­ance-ap­proved re­quire­ments list for the new plane, sup­port­ing theat­er-level mis­sile de­fense is among the op­er­a­tion­al scen­ari­os en­vi­sioned for the new cap­ab­il­ity, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment. One NATO in­sider said un­der con­sid­er­a­tion is the field­ing of mis­sile-track­ing sensors that would de­tect in­com­ing pro­jectiles and sup­ply ground-based in­ter­cept­ors with tar­get­ing data.

Such a cap­ab­il­ity — along with oth­er planned en­hance­ments for areas like mari­time sur­veil­lance, in­tel­li­gence sup­port, or the com­mand and con­trol of forces — would take the en­vi­sioned up­grades “far bey­ond” what the al­li­ance’s cur­rent AWACS fleet can do, the in­sider said. The source spoke with GSN on con­di­tion of an­onym­ity to of­fer more candor on the emer­ging trans-At­lantic top­ic, which is ex­pec­ted to come up at the Septem­ber NATO sum­mit in Wales.

An in­ter­im re­port by the in­dustry ad­visers is ex­pec­ted in Au­gust; the fi­nal ver­sion is due in April 2015.

Some AWACS planes were dis­patched to con­duct sur­veil­lance flights over Po­land and Ro­mania last month amid ten­sions with Rus­sia over Mo­scow’s ac­tions in Ukraine.

“This em­ploy­ment in­creases the un­der­stand­ing of what is hap­pen­ing in the re­gion, in­clud­ing in Ukraine, for NATO al­lies,” the al­li­ance said on its web­site.

What We're Following See More »
LEGACY PLAY
Sanders and Clinton Spar Over … President Obama
8 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”

THE 1%
Sanders’s Appeals to Minorities Still Filtered Through Wall Street Talk
9 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”

DIRECT APPEAL TO MINORITIES, WOMEN
Clinton Already Pivoting Her Messaging
9 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many Jobs Would Be Lost Under Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer System?
17 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 11 million, according to Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman, writing in RealClearPolicy.

Source:
WEEKEND DATA DUMP
State to Release 550 More Clinton Emails on Saturday
17 hours ago
THE LATEST

Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.

Source:
×