Since the 911 attacks, AWACS type radar aircraft have emerged as a key asset for security at public events. During this year's Winter Olympics in Torino and the Superbowl in Detroit, AWACS ( airborne early warning and control aircraft) were securing the skies. These so called high visibility events (HVEs), which also include political events like the gathering of government heads at the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings or the visit of Pope Benedict to Cologne/Germany in 2005, put increased demands on global airborne early warning aircraft fleets. For example 25 to 30 percent of the French AWACS fleet's current assignments have a HVE content. The next major event in this regard is the upcoming soccer World Cup in Germany in June and July 2006, for which Germany has already requested airborne early warning coverage through the NATO fleet of E-3 aircraft.
The E-3 is probably the most famous representative of airborne early warning and controlling platforms. The highly visible top mounted rotating radar on a Boeing 707 airframe offers a 360 degree surveillance of airspace and maritime targets within a radius of up to 320 kilometers. The fact that currently only the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia, NATO and in an updated version based on a Boeing 767 Japan operate E-3s, turns those aircraft into a rare asset. Further orders of Australia and Turkey for Boeing 737 based airborne early warning and controlling aircraft indicates that the global importance of such capabilities especially in the homeland security realm is rising. - Joachim Hofbauer