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On 4 October 2001, once it had been determined that the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC had come from abroad, NATO agreed on a package of eight measures to support the United States. On the request of the United States, the Alliance launched its first-ever counter-terrorism operation – Operation Eagle Assist – from mid-October 2001 to mid-May 2002.

Within one hour of the terrorist attack, the United States AWACS fleet was patrolling the skies over the United States. At that time, the US AWACS fleet consisted of 28 AWACS aircraft and 3,400 personnel, and it was engaged in four different theatres of operation around the world. The United States requested NATO to deploy its AWACS to reduce the operational pressure on the US AWACS fleet, allowing them to continue to conduct much-needed training and maintenance. On 8 October NATO agreed to provide five NATO AWACS and crews in support of the anti-terrorist campaign.

With only 24 hours’ notice, the first two E-3As took off from the Component and headed for Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, United States. The next two days another three E-3As followed, accompanied by one Trainer Cargo Aircraft (TCA) bringing equipment and additional personnel. NATO’s Operation Eagle Assist had begun.

Needless to say, the first time of invoking Article 5 attracted enormous attention from international media. After the first press conference, requests for media flights came from media agencies in Europe, Asia, South and Northern America. All the major agencies such as CNN, CBC, ARD, ZDF, NOS, Washington Post and many, many others were given the opportunity to fly.

Operation Eagle Assist came to an end on 15 May 2002. In more than seven months of patrolling the skies over the United States, the E-3A Component flew 447 sorties with a total of 4,719 flying hours. The majority of these flights went to the East Coast, and other flights guarded major cities, nuclear power plants, bridges or major sports events.

Durata Missione:

09/10/01 - 16/05/02


Stati Uniti d’America


Peacekeeping, Deterrence, Defence, Counter-terrorism

Base legale:

North Atlantic Council Decision based on Article 5 of the Washington Treaty

Paesi Partecipanti:

13 member countries

Forze impiegate:

Boeing E-3 Sentry (AWACS) e 830 personnel