BERLIN, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Germany is preparing a request to NATO to provide AWACS surveillance aircraft to patrol its airspace during this year's soccer World Cup, an interior ministry spokesman said on Thursday.
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has asked the defence ministry to draw up a formal request to NATO to supply the aircraft, part of a huge security operation to protect the month-long tournament from terrorist attack, the spokesman said.
NATO's fleet of E-3A AWACS planes has been regularly deployed in Europe to boost security at major public and sporting events, including the Euro 2004 soccer championship in Portugal and the Athens Olympics later that year.
An E-3A flying at 30,000 feet (9,150 metres) has more than 312,000 sq km (120,000 square miles) in its field of view and can detect low-flying targets as far away as 400 km (215 nautical miles).
Three E-3As equipped with AWACS, which stands for Airborne Warning and Control System, can provide complete coverage of central Europe, detecting hostile aircraft and directing fighter planes to intercept them.
The month-long World Cup, featuring 32 teams, kicks off on June 9.