Fri, Apr 08, 2005
Vigilance As The World Mourns
Security was tight in
Rome Friday as Pope John Paul II was buried at the Vatican. While
millions of mourners packed the Vatican and surrounding areas... as
billions watched on television, a NATO AWACS plane was on patrol
high above the ceremonies.
"This is being done at the request of the Italian government to
help provide security at what is possibly an unprecedented
gathering of world leaders," NATO spokesman James Appathurai told
Reuters. "The purpose of it is to give the Italian government
visibility of what is going on in their air space."
NATO’s E-3A Component has increasingly been called upon to
provide its characteristic airborne net of security at a wide
variety of summits and special events, including the 2004 Olympics
and last month’s Madrid International Summit on Democracy,
Terrorism and Security.
One E-3A AWACS operating at 30,000 feet can provide radar
coverage out to a distance greater than 200 miles, generating a
clear picture of aircraft movements from high to low altitude.
The E-3A Component at Geilenkirchen is NATO’s only
multinational flying unit, with international aircrews from 12
nations. It is a critical element of NATO’s military
capability, providing immediately available early warning, command
and control support to the entire range of NATO operations.
Other aerial surveillance missions were flown out of a NATO
airbase in Northern Italy during Friday's ceremony, as kings,
queens and heads of state put aside their political differences for
a day to pay their respects to the pontiff.
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