The first of five NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft landed in Sigonella, Italy at 16h46 local time on Thursday (21 November 2019), marking an important step in the delivery of the AGS Program.
“I welcome the arrival of the first Alliance Ground Surveillance aircraft in Sigonella. This demonstrates that NATO Allies are committed to modernising the Alliance and investing to deliver key cutting-edge capabilities to the benefit of our shared security”, said the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels.
The aircraft took off on Wednesday (20 November 2019) from Palmdale Air Base in California, US at 10h00 local time and landed 22 hours later in its new home at the AGS Main Operating Base, according to plan. The aircraft was received by the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA) General Manager Brigadier General Volker Samanns. AGS Force Commander Brigadier General Phillip Stewart and other senior officials were also present.
The first AGS ferry flight from the United States to Italy marks the implementation of a key multinational project for the procurement of state-of-the art equipment. AGS is being developed with significant contributions from 15 Allies – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States.
Alliance Ground Surveillance will be collectively owned and operated by all NATO Allies and will be a vital capability for NATO operations and missions. 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.
With its ground elements, AGS is a custom-made system specifically designed to meet the surveillance requirements identified by the North Atlantic Council and SACEUR. The AGS NATO RQ-4D remotely piloted aircraft is based on the US Air Force block 40 Global Hawk. It has been uniquely adapted to NATO requirements, to provide a state-of-the art Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability to NATO, to the benefit of all NATO Allies.
The NATO AGS program includes five NATO RQ-4D remotely piloted aircraft. All five are currently performing different stages of developmental test flights. Once each of the aircraft arrives at the Main Operating Base in Sigonella, a verification phase will start, in order to ensure full compliance of the system. The entire AGS system will be handed over to the NATO AGS Force once it has completed all its testing and performance verification. Initial operational capability is expected for the first half of 2020.
The Commander of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) Force, United States Air Force Brigadier General Phillip Stewart explains what the arrival of the first of vie RQ-4D remotely piloted aircraft at the Force’s Main Operating Base in Sigonella, Italy, means for NATO.
Photo credits: HFw Christian Timmig – HQ AIRCOM Ramstein, Northrop Grumman photographer: Alan Radecki; camera plane pilots: Reed Estrada, Stephen Kay