Nothing spectacular there, of course, but it’s that flying saucer that makes the thing unique. It’s actually a dome, 30 feet (9 meters) in diameter and 6-feet (1.8 meters) thick, that houses a potent rotating radar.
The dome is propped on two struts, one on each side of the plane, and it is used by the Sentry to provide “situational awareness of friendly, neutral and hostile activity.” In simpler words, that means the plane flies above an area of interest, out of reach of the enemy, to look ahead and provide friendlies with the data they need to conduct effective war.
The plane has been around since the 1970s, but, because of the nature of its job, it’s not such a constant presence in the U.S. Air Force's (USAF) media materials. Yet here is one, in a still captured back in February last year, and published by the military as part of its Year in Photos release.
It shows an AWACS flying “over the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility,“ as it chased a KC-135 Stratotanker, assigned to the 350th Expeditionary Aircraft Refueling Squadron, on a refueling mission.