NATO plans to deploy three surveillance planes to Romania next week to perform reconnaissance missions and to “monitor Russian military activity ” within the 30-nation military alliance’s territory, it said Friday.
The Airborne Warning and Control System surveillance planes, or AWACS, belong to a fleet of 14 usually based in Germany. Three of the aircraft will be sent on Jan. 17 to an air base at Otopeni near the Romanian capital, on a mission expected to last several weeks, the alliance said in a statement.
The planes “can detect aircraft hundreds of kilometers away, making them a key capability for NATO’s deterrence and defense posture,” NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said in a statement.The military organization has beefed up its presence on Europe’s eastern flank since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, with additional battlegroups sent to Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia.
AWACS have conducted “regular patrols over eastern Europe and the Baltic Sea region to track Russian warplanes near NATO borders” throughout the Russia-Ukraine war, according to a statement.
The NATO planes, Boeing E-3s, were jointly purchased at a cost of almost $8 billion in 1977 at the height of the Cold War, when Jimmy Carter became U.S. president and as a missile crisis with the Soviet Union was beginning to fester in Europe.
Along with a small drone fleet in Italy, the planes are among the few military assets that NATO owns as an alliance. They’ve been routinely refurbished to ensure that they can keep flying until 2035.