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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization says that one of its E-3A Awacs airborne early warning and control systems for the first time took control of an unmanned aircraft.The demo took place during the ongoing Empire Challenge 2010 exercise at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz. The UAV involved was a U.S. provided ScanEagle.It is an interesting capability expansion for the NATO fleet of 17 Awacs aircraft. NATO notes that it "provides new opportunities in the field of air battle management tasks, joint intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and refined information sharing methods to harness operational asset and network synergies. The accelerated data exchange between ScanEagle and the Awacs aircraft will not only mean improved observation angles from both higher and lower altitudes, but also shortened response times based on immediately actionable intelligence."What would be interesting to see is how, in an operational setting, such a scenario would play out, though. While one can see some value in linking the NATO Awacs with the Alliance Ground Surveillance Global Hawk fleet (if it is ever acquired), the scenario the alliance spells out here couples the airborne early warning aircraft with a tactical UAV. The problem is that NATO owns none of those UAVs nor are there acquisition plans for such a fleet. That means a national military force would have to put the UAV at the disposal or under the command of NATO. Given the shortage of tactical UAVs in the inventories of most NATO members, that may be a lot to ask.
ar99, NATO, UAV
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