NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen (GKE/ETNG) can be found right at the edge of Germany directly at the Netherlands border. It got its name from the city of Geilenkirchen, which can be found ~5kms to the east, and as it is serving as major hub for the NATO E3 Sentry Component fleet, which is flying their missions outta GKE/ETNG. The airfield was built in 1953 and used by the Royal AF as military air base till it was handed over back to German forces in 1968. After some years as German base on behalf of USAF fighters, the airport was chosen in the 70s as future Base by the NATO for its E3 Sentry Component following upgrades and reconstructions in the 1970-80s. While the German forces then left the airfield in 1981 and thereby making space for the NATO fleet, which began their missions form GKE in 1982. Since the USAF left this airfield in 1991, the main sight here are the NATO AWACS E3s, which are normally flying daily missions out of GKE during the week. The amount of E3 movements vary, but sometimes you can also see AWACS adding some “touch and go”s to their landings. Furthermore, mostly an AWACS is accompanied by an USAF KC135, which will normally arrive shortly before/after the E3 after the missions are done. These tankers are normally changed regularly and thereby you may see different KC135s regularly here.
However, Geilenkirchen is sometimes also serving as destination for foreign forces, thereby you may be lucky and see British AWACS’ or soldier charters. Nevertheless, already a “normal” NATO AWACS is worth a visit due to its sound… In addition, the NATO is regularly “celebrating” anniversaries here (last one was the 25th of AWACS in GKE in 2017), which normally attract quite interesting aircraft and plenty spotters. There is normally also a spotter day prior to public days where you can visit the aircraft on the tarmac on the weekend then. During such occasions, plenty foreign forces and aircraft make their way down to Geilenkirchen, so this is always a nice opportunity to catch a bounch and nice mixture.
Written by Severin Hackenberger and Wout Goossens. Last Update: March 2021
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|09/27||3.050m / 10.009ft – Concrete/Asphalt|
|Ladder||Needed at spot #2, but be careful and DON’T leave it up all the time! Just set it up once you really needed it for spotting.|
|Car/Public Transport||Car is definitely needed as the spots are otherwise hard to reach (fast).|
|Restrooms||Nothing around except some bushes 😀|
|Drinks/Food||Same here, nothing around. However, the German and Dutch villages can be reached in a spotting break easily by car.|
|Hotels||Nothing at the airport directly, but some a bit away.|
|Season||Depending on what you prefer, but normally there is no real sense in sunshine from 5 on as most missions start at 8, but some may take till 20 o’clock. So as this airport has no real traffic, it is hard to determine a “best season”…|
|Security||As always, this is a MILITARY AIR BASE. Please, be grateful and thankful to be given the chance to take photos here. Don’t attract attention due to bad behaviour, keep a low profile, don’t set up your ladder at the fence directly all the time. Just be friendly, respectful and reserved in order to keep this chance of spotting at GKE in the future and for other spotter, too!|
|General Info||Totally depends on the wind, but as this airfield has to handle such little traffic, you may also see sometimes approach with slight tailwind.|
|Spot #1 – Treeline – 09 Arrivals and Line-Ups + heavy 27 outbounds|
|WHERE||This spot can be found just at the western end of the airfield on a little hill. The position can be reached best by car as you can get rid of your vehicle by the roadside and on nearby field paths easily – best parking spot marked on the map, but be careful not to block any farmer ways. Then just walk in here to the marked spot from where you have a nice view…|
|WHAT||Arrivals on runway 09 as well as heavy 27 departures. If you stand directly by the fence, you can also see/photograph 09 Line-Ups as you can see in the video below.|
|TIME||In summer: Late morning till afternoon. In winter: all day.|
|MISC.||Nothing around here. No ladder needed as a little hill is nearby, but don’t stand up there all the time.
DON’T BLOCK FARMER PATHS when you park your car here!
KC135 = 100mm / AWACS = 90mm
Pictures from here look like these:
|Spot #2 – Große Heide – 27 Arrivals and Lineups + 09 departures|
|WHERE||Located just alongside the fence in the east of the airfield, this spot is like not missable. Just get rid of your car nearby here – either at the marked parking along the “Bocketzgracht” in the east or at the football club in the south (both marked on the map). But please, only use the football club if really needed as their parking actually has another sense than to be a spotters destination. However, once you left your car, just make your way to this area/the fence here. This spot is no exact position, one has to search the favourite location around here…|
|WHAT||Arrivals and Line-Ups on runway 27 as well as nice front views onto departures on runway 09 when they lift off late.|
|TIME||Line-Up/Front views: Sunrise till late midday (in the eve you can also shoot nice backlit mood departures). Arrivals: in winter all day, in summer late morning till afternoon.|
|MISC.||Nothing around here. Ladder needed for Line-Ups and nice runway head on shots, but arrivals are also fine without. However, the area around the light is not 100% flat (as you can see below), so you may be able to shoot over the fence from the surrounding area.
If you park by the football field, PLEASE park your car RESPECTFULLY. If we are already not visiting their club and thereby using the parking as it was meant to be, at least park properly to keep a low profile.
|FOCAL LENGTH||Totally depending on your position and angle you wanna shoot, but you can use everything from 18-300mm…|