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A group of NATO airmen will have a bird’s-eye view of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Two NATO Airborne Warning and Control System planes, or AWACS, will augment Italian efforts to monitor the skies over northern Italy against a possible terrorist attack, according to a NATO news release. The deployment of the two E-3D aircraft from RAF Waddington, England, to Aviano Air Base, Italy, will last for the duration of the Olympics, which runs through Feb. 26.

The AWACS crews, manned by Royal Air Force personnel, will provide Italian and Olympic security officials with added radar coverage and communication capabilities. According to NATO, the surveillance planes can detect and track suspicious aircraft at all heights over a range of more than 200 miles.

This isn’t the first time alliance planes have been dispatched to provide Olympic coverage.

NATO took on a similar task at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece. Since 2001, alliance AWACS planes have also provided airborne surveillance at more than 30 other events, ranging from a Spanish royal wedding in Madrid to the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome.

The Italian government, which asked for the AWACS, is reportedly using about 15,000 police and military personnel for security purposes.


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