BRUSSELS — NATO hopes to deploy AWACS aircraft to the Middle East as early as October to support the US-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State group, a top NATO official said Monday.
Once deployed to the Middle East, the E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft will conduct surveillance and gather intelligence, which will be shared across members of the coalition, Alexander Vershbow, NATO deputy general, told reporters during a briefing at NATO headquarters.
“The basic plans are agreed with in the alliance. The assets have been identified that can perform the mission,” he said. “They will provide additional data for the overall air picture that supports coalition operations.”
NATO is not a member of the coalition battling ISIS, and thus has no direct involvement in airstrikes being carried out in Syria and Iraq. However, the demand for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance have outpaced the coalition’s capacity, and NATO’s small fleet of 16 E-3 planes could provide an “added value,” Vershbow said.