The Fleet

NATO owns and operates a total of 14 E‑3A aircraft out of the NATO Air Base in Geilenkirchen, Germany.

The fleet of E‑3A originally consisted of 18 aircraft but one was damaged on take-off at Aktion in 1996 and had to be decommissioned. In addition, the last of the three Boeing 707 Trainer/Cargo Aircraft (TCA) was retired at the end of 2011 and in June 2015 another E‑3A aircraft retired bringing the number to 16 operating E‑3A's. In 2018, another 2 E‑3A aircraft were retired reducing the number to today’s 14 operating aircraft.

E‑3A Aircraft

The E‑3A aircraft is a militarized version of the Boeing 707-320B commercial airframe. Under normal circumstances the aircraft can operate for up to 11 hours (and longer with air-to-air refueling) at 30,000 feet (9,150 metres). While its passive sensors are located on the fuselage and wings, its active surveillance sensors are located in the rotodome, which makes the E‑3A such a distinctive aircraft. This structure rotates once every ten seconds and provides 360-degree radar surveillance coverage; providing the E‑3A with the ability to detect aircraft out to a distance in excess of 215 nautical miles (400 kilometres).


One aircraft flying at 30,000 feet has surveillance area coverage of approximately 120,463 square miles (312,000 square kilometres). Three aircraft operating in overlapping coordinated orbits can therefore provide unbroken radar coverage of the whole of Central Europe.

In addition to the flight deck personnel, a standard E‑3A mission crew composed of highly-trained men and women whose expertise covers battle space management, weapons control, surveillance control, data link management and the technical aspects of communications, data processing and radar.

Main E‑3A Specifications

Maximum Take-off weight 147429 kg
Length, fuselage46.68 m
Height, fuselage12.70 m
Wingspan44.45 m
Width, overall4.52 m
Height rotodome above fuselage3.35 m
Diameter rotodome9.1 m
Thickness rotodome1.8 m
Maximum range9250 km
SpeedMore than 800 km/h
Maximum endurance (no refueling)More than 10:00 h:min
Four TF-33 Pratt & Whitney 100A turbofan engines 4 x 21000 lb
Crew4 flight crew, 13 operators
Number can vary for a specific mission


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