August 6, 2011:
A key element in providing effective ground support for rebel fighters in Libya has been AWACS air control aircraft. Normally used to track friendly and enemy aircraft over a combat zone, AWACS has also proved useful as a radio relay, to quickly connect fighter-bombers over Libya with NATO headquarters in Italy and rebel headquarters in eastern Libya, to insure that the target being bombed is not a rebel unit.
Back in March, NATO decided to have an AWACS radar aircraft monitoring Libyan airspace 24/7. The AWACS can fly over international waters and still monitor air activity several hundred kilometers into Libya. This was crucial to maintain the no-fly zone established over the Libyan coastal area (where most of the population lives). AWACS can spot Libyan aircraft taking off, and call in fighters to deal with that problem before the Libyan warplanes can get very far. In addition, AWACS monitors friendly aircraft, to prevent collisions, and to help fighters reach tankers faster.
This is not the first time AWACS has proved itself useful in a multitude of ways. For example, two years ago, Turkey allowed NATO to station four AWACS aircraft at an airbase in Turkey. This made it possible to keep an AWACs in the air over Afghanistan 24/7 (or as close to that as possible). Afghanistan has never had a nationwide air-traffic control system. That was largely because there was never enough aircraft flying around to justify it. As the economy keeps growing, and more U.S. and NATO transports and warplanes are out and about, air traffic control has become a growing problem. All those radar blocking hills and high mountains don't help either. So NATO decided to bring in some of their AWACS (which don't get much work since the end of the Cold War) and play aerial traffic cop over Afghanistan. The AWACs can also keep track of any unscheduled air service being used for the drug gangs or the Taliban, or whoever. NATO sent 300 aircrew and ground support to Turkey as well. The AWACS radar can track over a hundred aircraft, within a 400 kilometer radius.