Canada will be rejoining NATO’s Alliance’s Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) program after a seven-year hiatus, announced the government this week.
Established in 1978, AWACS provides going intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, something the Department of National Defence believes is “Increasingly relevant in today’s security environment.”
Canada withdrew from the AWACS program in 2011 following the Department of National Defence’s 2010 Strategic Review.
“NATO is a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy and is one of our most important multilateral relationships. In that spirit, Canada has decided to rejoin NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control System. AWACS is a key NATO capability that we will support by contributing to its operations and support budget. We have committed to keeping Canada engaged in the world and continuing to commit ourselves to NATO and its missions are important steps toward that goal,” said Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan.
In recent years, NATO has increased the use of the AWACS program in areas like Central and Eastern Europe, places where Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members have a significant presence including taking the lead on NATO’s battlegroup in Latvia.
Long-range aerial surveillance is provided to members of NATO through a fleet of NATO-owned aircraft. The program has sixteen E-3A aircraft, modified Boeing 707s that can constantly monitor airspace within a radius of more than 400 km. The aircraft use Doppler radar which helps them to distinguish between targets and ground reflections and is, therefore, able to give early warning of a potential aggressor.