NATO Euro 2012 - Keeping an eye on the ball

Uploaded by NATOCOMMUNITY on 13.06.2012

While soccer fans can enjoy three weeks of football, NATO’s “Eye in the Sky” or
Airborne Warning & Control System, AWACS, plays an important role in the security of
the Euro 2012 Football Championship. Poland, as co-host of the competition along
with Ukraine, has requested the air surveillance and control capability of NATO AWACS to safeguard
the event. “Well, the threat could be analog to 9/11.
You know, it could be anything; airplanes that will be used by terrorists to attack
a football stadium.” NATO AWACS were already surveilling the Polish
airspace during the kick-off of the EURO 2012 tournament; the opening match between Poland
and Greece. “During the flight we monitor the area of
160 kilometers around the football stadium in Warsaw. And all contacts that we see are
reported via our data link to the ground.” “On the screens we actually see all the
aircraft flying in the airspace. And I not only see the aircraft I see with my radar,
but also the aircraft reported from the ground station. So, we are integrated with the ground
radar station as well and it is a common air picture.”
Although the AWACS crew may enjoy a bird’s eye view of the EURO 2012 matches, their main
focus will be on the mission. Even though this is not a regular military one.
“Basically, it is not so different. Because we are assisting in maintaining airspace integrity.
Assisting in keeping the air picture for our commanding authorities. And that is independent
of military or civilian air traffic.” “I do exactly the same as I always do. It’s
only the feeling that I do something special and I think the whole crew is sharing the
same feeling with me.” As a consequence of the 9/11 terrorist attacks,
NATO governments have been able to request the air surveillance and control capability
of NATO AWACS to assist with security for major public occasions.
“It happens a few times a year. High-visibility events could be a visit of the Pope, could
be President Obama visiting us, a G-8, a NATO Summit. When happenings like that occur, countries
can request for extra protection. Hence, for E-3A coverage.”
The NATO AWACS Component is the Alliance’s largest collaborative programme and celebrates
its 30th anniversary this year. During the EURO 2012 Tournament it is mandated to help
safeguard only the Polish airspace. “No, we will not be flying over the Ukraine
as we can only fly within NATO airspace. So, we will not contribute to the Ukrainian side
of the house. REPORTER: But what happens if you see something?
If we see something, we will report it to the ground side in Poland and they can converse
that message to the authorities in the Ukraine.” With a flight crew that can consist of sixteen
nationalities, out of the eighteen contributing nations, it is a special multinational working
environment flying missions like these. “Of course it is. Because soccer is always
emotional, so it is special for us.” Something that becomes even more special,
when you’re a crew member from one of the countries that is organizing the Championship.
“It is very special, because… yes you see I am the only one Polish on board of the
jet right now. And it is really like protecting the country and feeling the responsibility
for it. As I said, it makes me proud.” “Really, it is my small support for them
to win.
REPORTER: So, you don’t mind working while others watch the game?
I don’t mind at all. I mean they love to play football, I love to fly.”
As football fans watch their country’s team compete, they can be reassured to know that
some of their fellow citizens are ensuring airborne surveillance to assist the security
of the competition. But who will win the game? “Well, I am not going to tell you that until
we land because the first pilot is from Greece. So, maybe first he lands the plane safely
and then I’ll tell you who is going to win.” Of course, the Greek pilot landed the airplane
safely as Poland and Greece opened the tournament with a one to one draw. I’m Karsten Reiniers,
reporting for the NATOChannel from Poland.