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.
The First Pilot is also the Captain and is responsible for the safety of the aircraft and its occupants.
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.
The flight engineer is responsible for monitoring the aircrafts systems including fuel, engines and electrics and flight performance of the aircraft.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (CT) assists the CO in the running of all the on-board communications systems including the physical data links.
The Display Technician (DT) initialises, runs and maintains the on-board computer systems which are the heart of the mission equipment.
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.