Nato is moving Airborne Early Warning and Control System (Awacs) surveillance planes to Turkey to protect the country's airspace amid growing friction with Russia. The alliance is deploying the Boeing E-3 Sentry system as part of its defence package to Ankara over the simmering Syrian crisis.
Germany has dispatched several surveillance aircraft to the Turkish city of Konya, the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of defence told the parliament. However, the number of troops and aircraft to be deployed was not revealed.
"Since Germany provides 30% of all personnel, our armed forces will clearly also be affected by the move," a spokesperson for the German ministry of defence said. According to a statement issued by the two ministries, the planes were sent from the Geilenkirchen airbase to Turkey.
Nato's defence package – which includes enhanced air patrol and naval presence – for Turkey was agreed on 18 December amid escalating tension with Moscow. Ever since Turkish jets shot down a Russian bomber for allegedly violating its airspace, the crowded skies above Iraq, Syria and Turkey remain volatile.
Nato's move is aimed at stabilising Turkish airspace and avoiding confrontational incidents like the one with Russia. Some German lawmakers, however, have questioned the deployment.
Germany – which accounts for around one-third of the forces involved in the mission – has not divulged further details of the operation as the defence ministry said it is still in initial stages of deployment. Nato's Awacs planes are operated by a multinational crew comprising about 16 personnel.