In the heart of the Cold War, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) started equipping itself in order to adequately respond to any SSBS atomic attack on its territory. Protecting America from an unexpected attack were strategic bombers, flight refuelling tankers, and a chain of sophisticated Nadge radars stretching from the Northern Cape to Turkey and across the Aleutian islands. Yet, a new threat soon emerged, that of MSBS launched by submarines capable of doing so just from anywhere. As from June 12, 1963, the SAC equipped itself with an airborne radar aimed at detecting any object flying or taking off below or above it within a radius of 500 kilometres.
AWACS had just been invented as early warning systems. It was a Super Constellation, the EC 121, equipped with a radar which proved to be considerably limited in the detection of objects flying close to the ground due to the ground effect. Technicians thus focused their research on the Doppler Effect, the only property that could be used to differentiate the echo of a plane flying at very low altitude from the stray echo emitted by the ground.
Keeping watch, coordinating, directing and harmonizing
The first AWACS E3 Sentry prototype known to us made its debut flight in October 1975. Its role was defined as follows: Keeping watch over the air space of an operations site, coordinating communications, as well as directing and harmonizing air operations. Its radar, AN/APY-1 or 2, situated in the 9.14 m diameter rotating radome located on top of the fuselage, could detect all types of aircrafts flying between sea level and the stratosphere. Furthermore, thanks to its state-of-the-art electronic equipment, friendly ships could be differentiated from enemy ships (code IFF) and their respective positions within the confines of the operations sphere memorized.
France, given her proximity to the communist block, saw that it was indispensable for her to equip herself with such an outstanding machine if her independent dissuasion policy had to be credible. On February 26, 1987, she ordered 4 E3 from Boeing. These happened to be the last B707 (basic airframe) constructed by the latter.
Finally, on October 10, 1990, the E3-F n° 201, escorted by 4 fighter aircrafts landed in Bourget in order to be equipped. The first test flight took place on February 8, 1991, followed on May 30, 1991, by the first flight with a constituted crew.
The 36th Airborne Detection Squadron (EDA) was declared operational on June 19, 1992, by Commanding General CAFDA.
On Thursday, August 12, 1992, the E-3F engagement in the Balkans started.
The operational activity of the squadron, at the peak of the Kosovo crisis in 1999, was a 10-hour daily outing.
Since 2000, the 4 SDCA have been equipped with the ESM system aimed at rendering our planes even more efficient and interoperable with other AWACS.
The scaled-down model of the giant, used by the Navy in early warning, is the E-2C HAWKEYE
EDA : Escadre de Détection Aéroportée (airborne detection squadron)
EDCA : Escadron de Détection et de Contrôle Aéroporté (airborne detection and control squadron)
CAFDA: Air Defence Forces Air Command
E-3F SDCA AWACS:
Engines: 4 CFM 56-2-A3 Power: 4 x 10900 kgf
Wingspan: 44.40 m Length: 46.60 m
Height when grounded: 12.60 m Wing area: 283 m²
Dry weight: 85600 kg Maximum mass: 151950 kg
Service ceiling: 12200 m Autonomy: 9250 km
Maximum speed: Mach 0.78 Crew: 2 pilots and 15 persons