Canada rejoins NATO Airborne Warning and Control System program

News Release

February 14, 2018, Brussels, Belgium — National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

The Government is committed to both the security and safety of Canadians and the protection of their rights and freedoms. Canada is playing a strong and constructive role in the world by making concrete contributions to international peace and security – including at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO is a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy and today the Government announced its intention to rejoin to the Alliance’s Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) program.

Programs such as AWACS, and the joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance it provides, are increasingly relevant in today’s security environment.  In response to the challenges posed by that environment, NATO has significantly increased the use of its AWACS operations, including in areas like Central and Eastern Europe where Canada is leading a multinational NATO battlegroup based in Latvia.

Canada decided to withdraw from the AWACS program in 2011 following the Department of National Defence’s 2010 Strategic Review.


“NATO is a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy, and is one of our most important multilateral relationships. In that spirit, Canada has decided to rejoin NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control System. AWACS is a key NATO capability that we will support by contributing to its operations and support budget. We have committed to keeping Canada engaged in the world, and continuing to commit ourselves to NATO and its missions are important steps toward that goal.”

Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister

Quick Facts

  • The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) was established in 1978 and consists of a fleet of NATO-owned aircraft giving the Alliance abilities to conduct long-range aerial surveillance, and to command and control forces from the air.

  • Part of Canada’s commitment to NATO, as outlined in Strong, Secure, Engaged, includes:

    • Leading and/or contributing forces to NATO and coalition efforts to deter and defeat potential adversaries, including terrorists, to support global stability;
    • Leading and/or contributing to international peace operations and stabilization missions with the United Nations, NATO, and other multilateral partners.
  • The NATO Airborne Warning and Control System has sixteen E-3A aircraft. These modified Boeing 707s are easily identifiable from the distinctive radar dome mounted on the fuselage. The E-3A usually operates at an altitude of around 10 km. From this altitude a single E-3A can constantly monitor the airspace within a radius of more than 400 km and can exchange information – via digital data links – with ground-based, sea-based and airborne commanders. By using pulse Doppler radar, an E-3A flying within NATO airspace can distinguish between targets and ground reflections and is therefore able to give early warning of low- or high-flying aircraft operating over the territory of a potential aggressor.


Byrne Furlong
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of National Defence
Phone: 613-996-3100

Media Relations
Department of National Defence
Phone: 613-996-2353

Page details

Date modified: