During the fight, where do AWACS planes go

With AWACS against the IS

It's international at the NATO base in Geilenkirchen near Aachen: the crews of the AWACS aircraft come from no fewer than 15 member countries of the military alliance. AWACS stands for "Airborne Early Warning and Control System" and is NATO's airborne early warning system, also known as the "flying eye".

The Boeings 707 are full of surveillance electronics. With their distinctive radar mushroom on the stern, they can monitor the airspace within a radius of 450 kilometers and provide an accurate picture of the air situation. But you don't see what's going on on the floor.

Rather, the AWACS specialize in collecting information about flight movements, for example about low-flying fighter jets. They are used to support NATO military operations, such as the ISAF in Afghanistan, but also to protect major events that gather thousands of people. Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia, AWACS planes have been patrolling Poland and the Baltic States continuously.

The crew of an AWACS machine has an overview of all flight movements in the airspace

Dispute over Incirlik's visit

The Bundeswehr provides almost a third of the NATO soldiers who are trained for flights on the association's 16 AWACS machines in Geilenkirchen. Longer missions are hardly possible without Germany. After Turkey and the USA requested AWACS planes for the anti-IS coalition, NATO would have liked to deploy them earlier, but met resistance in Berlin.

The German government first wanted to settle the dispute with the Turkish government over the temporary ban on German parliamentarians from visiting the Turkish Incirlik NATO base. There are currently 250 Bundeswehr soldiers, six air force reconnaissance tornadoes and a tanker aircraft stationed there. When the Bundestag classified the Turkish massacre of Armenians over 100 years ago as genocide, Turkey closed the base for members of the Bundestag.

After a declaration by the federal government on the Armenia resolution had smoothed the waves, the visit of the MPs at the beginning of October took place. This cleared the way for the cabinet decision on Wednesday: In future, German soldiers can also take part in the AWACS reconnaissance flights for the anti-IS coalition, which consists of 60 countries. NATO had already taken the relevant decision at its summit in Warsaw in July.

Extension of the mandate

The planes will take off from Konya, Turkey, where one of the regular operations airfields of the AWACS association is located. The aim is to improve the air situation and to provide the coalition aircraft with information from the heavily frequented airspace in the war zone. Around 50 soldiers are to be stationed in Konya, including 15 to 20 Germans. NATO thus becomes part of the international mission against the terrorist militia "Islamic State".

The USA, here before an air operation against the terrorist militia IS, had requested the AWACS deployment from NATO

For the Bundeswehr this means that the existing mandate for anti-IS operations will be expanded. The AWACS part will be integrated into the mandate, which is due to be extended in December anyway. The extension to December 2017 is now being brought forward, the Bundestag will discuss it in the coming weeks. The extension of the mandate is simplified by the fact that the upper limit of a maximum of 1200 Bundeswehr soldiers has not yet been exhausted.

No flights over Syria

The text of the Bundeswehr mandate speaks of "sea and air surveillance" also through AWACS flights, "in which the data obtained are passed on to the anti-IS coalition". The extended radar view of the AWACS aircraft allows them to remain in the airspace of NATO member Turkey or in international airspace, but still be able to look far into the airspace over Syria or Iraq. Flights over Syria and Iraq are not planned.

The federal government justifies the extension and expansion of the mandate with the continuing terrorist threat posed by IS. The German participation in the fight against IS represents "a key point of our security policy engagement in the region," says the mandate. This will counter "the immediate and direct danger for Germany, our allies and the international community".