Airborne Warning and Control Squadron

Heroes Remember

Airborne Warning and Control Squadron

Interviewer: You mentioned that in ‘89 when you went to Oklahoma to join the AWACS. Yes. Interviewer: Can you tell me about that and exactly what that stands for and what it is? Airborne Warning and Control Squadron was what I was serving on and the AWACS is an American control system. So it originally started out as a Boeing 707, which is quite an old airplane, they started developing it in the 50's, late 40's the concept was developed and the aircraft itself was started. Developing the concept and how they were going to build it and how they were going to get the radar dome to turn and not spin the aircraft into the ground at the same time. Over a period of time, which took a number of years, they started delivery on them, I believe was in the early 70's, and received their last one in 1982 I believe. They wound up with a total of 34 with them, on the American side of it. I say the American side because NATO also flies the 707 version of the AWACS. There's a number of countries in the world today that fly a variant of that, Great Britain for example flies a 707 version of it, France does, Saudi Arabia has four or five slightly different, but the same thing. Japan has bought a 767 version of the AWACS, Australia is buying four of them as well, so they're throughout the world now. But they did start originally with the Americans. Big airplane, 707, quite old now obviously, very well maintained, the Americans are extremely careful with that aircraft. The value of it today would cost about 400 million to replace one airplane so it's an extremely valuable asset that they have. The radome itself that makes it really noticeable as being an AWACS, is about 40 feet across, it's about six feet high in the centre of it and it weighs about six ton. It's a pretty heavy thing, but it's the way it's designed, it, aerodynamically, it provides as much lift once the aircraft is actually moving as it does weight, it totally offsets the weight of it. The aircraft with all the equipment in it and the radome on top weighs about 300,000 pounds when it's full of fuel. And 300,000 pounds, if you look at a Boeing 747 with all it's passengers on board, you're looking at about the same weight. And it's a quite a bit larger airplane so it's quite a heavy airplane to do it. One thing that's really unique about the American airplane which takes a while getting used to is there's no reverse thrust on the engines. They, because there's so much electronic equipment in the back they had to have extra generators on board, to make room at the engines to put the generators on board, they had to take the thrust portion of it off. So when you land, you've got breaks and that's it, so you require quite a lengthy runway as well as a runway that is dressed for the 300,000 pounds. They carry, depending on the mission that your flying you carry anywhere from 25 to a 40 person crew, mix, male-female, mixed obviously in the States of Canadian-American. Very seldom will you see an airplane flying with all American crew, they, we fit right in when we do everything with them. We originally went there as part of the NORAD agreement is how we wound up in Tinker flying on them, and it just expanded over the years. I believe the big expansion was around ‘87, ‘88, where we expanded to about 40 Canadians flying out of Tinker. With the same program we also have an 11 person group that flies on the American AWACS out of Alaska, which is kind of exciting for those, those folks, I've never been stationed there but the folks that are in Alaska really love it and just beg to go back to Alaska. It's quite a place.

Mr. Johnston describes AWACS, covering some of it’s history and use in different countries, and some of it’s technical and mechanical uniqueness.

Alonzo Johnston

Mr. Johnston first served with the HSR cadets in Sussex, NB, and joined the regular forces before finishing high school. He joined the air force, but transferred to the navy after his trade as a data processor was closed and contracted out to civilians. In 1981, Mr. Johnston returned to the air force as an air weapons controller, commissioned from navy ranks. After a promotion, Mr. Johnston was posted in Bangor, then Oklahoma with a joint Canadian/American AWACS force. This force was eventually posted in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, where Mr. Johnston served as a mission control commander on Northern Watch and Provide Comfort missions. In 1996, Mr. Johnston was reassigned to North Bay, Ontario, where he remained until his retirement in 2002.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Alonzo Johnston
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Air Force

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Related Videos

Date modified: