NATO Receives First Air Ground Surveillance Aircraft

NATO on Jan. 17 received the first two of five Air Ground Surveillance system drones at NAS Sigonella, Italy.

The AGS system, a variant of the RQ-4 Global Hawk already in use by multiple nations, will be used by NATO to watch over Europe, along with operations in the Sahel region of Africa and the Middle East as tasked, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a ceremony.

“Today, NATO is filling an important intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability gap,” Stoltenberg said, according to a release.

A collection of 15 NATO allies, including the US, acquired the aircraft. About 600 personnel will fly and maintain it, largely from the main operating base at Sigonella along with small groups of personnel in Belgium and Germany, according to NATO.

“Alliance Ground Surveillance will be collectively owned and operated by all NATO allies and will be a vital capability for NATO operations and missions,” according to a release. “All allies will have access to data acquired by AGS, and will benefit from the intelligence derived from the surveillance and reconnaissance missions that AGS will undertake.”

The NATO variant, the RQ-4D, will include a multi-platform technology insertion program ground surveillance radar sensor, along with line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight, long-range, wide-band data links, according to a factsheet. The ground stations are mobile and transportable. 

Acquisition of the aircraft dates back to a $1.7 billion contract awarded in May 2012 to prime contractor Northrop Grumman, along with other international companies that are contributing, such as Airbus Defense and Space, Leonardo, and Kongsberg.