NATO backs using AWACS to help US in anti-ISIL fight
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoNATO has agreed “in principle” to a U.S. request to deploy AWACS air surveillance aircraft to help out in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), its chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Feb. 11.
The NATO planes would not be directly involved in monitoring the jihadist group, but would instead fill in for U.S. planes that would be re-tasked to gather intelligence over Iraq and Syria.
“We agreed in principle to use NATO AWACS surveillance planes to backfill national AWACS capabilities,” Stoltenberg said.
“This is in response to the U.S. request. Our military planners are now working out the details. The decision will increase the ability of the coalition to degrade and destroy the terrorist group ISIL,” he added.
NATO has few military assets of its own, providing the umbrella command structure for the 28 member states, but in the 1980s they agreed to establish an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) unit to counter the then Soviet threat.
The AWACS unit has more than 20 planes capable of monitoring activity, principally in the air but also on the ground, within a radius of some 400 kilometers to warn of threats and coordinate a response.