The Sentry AEW Mk1 Crew

In order to operate all this complex equipment the E-3D has a crew of 17 men and women, drawn from a variety of branches and trades, all of whom are highly skilled in their respective roles.

Flight Deck

First Pilot

The First Pilot is also the Captain and is responsible for the safety of the aircraft and its occupants.

Second Pilot

Both pilots are fully qualified to operate the aircraft, which is generally 'operated' from the left-hand seat. Pilots, therefore, fly most sorties from the left-hand seat to ensure 'hands on' time is shared evenly. The pilot in the right-hand seat is responsible for radio communications and the monitoring of navigation radio aids.


The navigator's duties, amongst others, include ensuring that the aircraft reaches and maintains its orbit position, often in airspace giving little margin for error.

Flight Engineer

The flight engineer is responsible for monitoring the aircrafts systems including fuel, engines and electrics and flight performance of the aircraft.

Mission Crew

Tactical Director

The Tactical Director (TD) is responsible for the overall conduct of the mission as tasked by the operating authorities. He or she is the senior member of the mission crew and liaises directly with the operating authorities.

Surveillance Team

The surveillance team is commanded by the Surveillance Controller (SC) who provides the optimum radar picture with which to work. Working for him/her are the Link Manager (LM), who ensures the efficient employment of the digital data links, 2 Surveillance Operators (SOs) and an ESM Operator who compile the recognised air and surface picture for onward transmission to the ground and other units.

Weapons Team

The weapons team is headed by the Fighter Allocator (FA) who is responsible for the safe conduct of all aircraft which have been allocated to the E-3D for control. His/her 2 Weapons Controllers (WCs) can control a wide variety of air missions including Offensive and Defensive Counter Air operations using fighters, Close Air Support and Battlefield Air Interdiction using bombers and a wide variety of operational support aircraft.

Communications Operator

The Communications Operator (CO) is in charge of all the Sentry's on-board communications. He allocates access to radios and data links to those who need them.

Airborne Technicians

Because of the complexity of the on-board systems the E-3D is unique in the Royal Air Force in carrying Airborne Technicians who initialise, monitor and provide basic maintenance of the highly sophisticated mission equipment:

The Communications Technician

The Communications Technician (CT) assists the CO in the running of all the on-board communications systems including the physical data links.

The Display Technician

The Display Technician (DT) initialises, runs and maintains the on-board computer systems which are the heart of the mission equipment.

The Radar Technician

The Radar Technician (RT) runs the mission radar without which there would be no mission. He liaises with the SC and the DT to provide the best possible radar picture for the surveillance and weapons teams to work with.

Maintained by: 23 Squadron