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NATO to modernise surveillance jets in face of Russia threat

NATO on Wednesday announced it will buy six Boeing aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of AWACS surveillance planes, bolstering the alliance’s capabilities to track the threat from Russia. “The production of the six new Boeing E-7A Wedgetail aircraft is set to begin in the coming years, with the first aircraft expected to be ready for operational duty by 2031,” NATO said. NATO said the joint acquisition by its members represented one of the alliance’s “biggest-ever capability purchases”, but did not give the overall cost. The jets will be operated centrally by the alliance, likely out of its Geilenkirchen airbase in Germany, with intelligence shared among the 31 members. “Equipped with a powerful radar, the aircraft can detect hostile aircraft, missiles and ships at great distances and can direct NATO fighter jets to their targets,” the alliance said. The United States, Britain and Turkey already fly Wedgetail aircraft or plan to operate them. The British government said last year it was spending £1.89 billion ($2.36 billion) on a programme to acquire three planes. NATO has stepped up surveillance activities along its eastern flank in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In January, the alliance deployed AWACS planes to Romania, which borders Ukraine.

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