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New Sentry completes first combat sortie in Southwest Asia

By By Staff Sgt. Kentavist Brackin, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing

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Dec. 1, 2015 — SOUTHWEST ASIA (Nov. 27, 2015) — The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing’s newest weapon system, the E-3G Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft, completed its first active combat mission from an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 21, 2015.

The AWACS is a platform that provides airborne, command and control, all-weather surveillance and communications to the U.S. and its coalition partners. The E-3G or Block 40/45 model is the newest Sentry aircraft recently completed as part of the AWACS modernization program.

The 40/45 program focuses on replacing existing 1970’s hardware and software with modern computer systems, which makes improvements to the E-3 aircraft the most significant air battle management upgrade in the history of combat Air Forces tactical command and control.

“By doing this, we are better postured to maintain the freedom to strike [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] targets wherever, whenever we choose,” said Lt. Col. Gary, commander of the 968th Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron. “In addition, it allows us to execute with precision to the extent that we are not only able to ensure survivability of U.S. and coalition forces and the stability of this region, but also mitigate any risk associated with civilian casualties – a key continued component of our strategy.”

The E-3G is capable of providing better situation awareness at the tactical level, easier to upgrade with emerging military technology and has the ability to rapidly share information.

“The E-3G is a leap in technology that has been overdue for many years and presents data in an easy to understand manner which provides aircrews greater situation awareness during combat missions,” said Lt. Col. Jack, 968th EAACS director of operations. “The operating software brings us closer to common operating picture within the battle management community.”

The Airmen of the 968th EAACS are the first Air Force unit to fly the aircraft in combat and they are taking note of how the vast technological improvements make battle management and coordination easier.

“Basically, with battle management, the game is chess and we’re the chess masters moving the pieces around. We’re gathering all those pieces together to start the process on the ground and modify the plan in the air as priorities change at a level that was unattainable with the previous E3B/C aircraft,” said Capt. Daniel, 968th EAACS senior director for the AWACS.

As a senior director, Daniel manages the air battle section aboard the aircraft and is responsible for ensuring effective command and control of U.S. and coalition aircraft supporting a variety of missions.

“The amount of information it provides can be almost overwhelming at times,” he said. “With the modernized technology, we can even share information we have with other allied aircraft via a link, without even saying a word.”

Daniel and the rest of his crew have high hopes for Block 40/45, which has closed a technological gap spanning more than three decades.

Currently, the remainder of the Air Force’s Sentry fleet is scheduled to receive 40/45 upgrades by 2020.

(Due to safety and security reasons, last names were removed)