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NATO sends planes to protect U.S.

NATO E-3 AWACS plane
NATO is sending five AWACS surveillance planes, like the one shown above, to patrol U.S. skies.  


CASTEAU, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO on Tuesday dispatched the first of five AWACS surveillance planes to patrol the U.S. skies -- the first time NATO assets have been used to help protect the continental United States.

The United States had requested the aircraft so its own AWACS planes could be used in the fight against terrorism. The request was approved last week by the North Atlantic Council.

The deployment of the five NATO planes is expected to be completed within days.

"This is a historic decision in that it is the first time NATO assets will have been used in direct support of the continental United States," said Gen. Joseph Ralston, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. "Of course, we continue to stand ready to provide any additional support requested by the United States, on order of the North Atlantic Council."

AWACS -- Airborne Warning and Control Systems -- provide air surveillance and early warning capability that can relay information directly to command and control centers on the ground, at sea or in the air. The planes operate at 30,000 feet and typically carry a four-person flight crew and about 13 other crew members to conduct the mission.

Also Tuesday, NATO dispatched a fleet of warships to the eastern Mediterranean as a show of solidarity in the fight against terrorism.

"With this deployment, the force will provide NATO presence in the area while demonstrating NATO's resolve and solidarity," the alliance said in a statement.



 
 
 
 



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