NATO’s fleet of new AGS aircraft are now ready for missions. On 15 February 2021, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, General Tod Wolters, announced NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system has achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC), marking a major milestone for the programme.
Five remotely piloted RQ-4D aircraft are part of the AGS Force, which gives commanders a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground. The RQ-4D aircraft represents the state-of-the-art in terms of high-altitude, long-endurance aerial intelligence platforms. With a range of 16,000 kilometres and a ceiling of 18,000 metres, the RQ-4D can stay aloft for more than 32 hours.
Flying from its main operating base – Sigonella Air Force Base near Catania, Italy – the five drones will support NATO operations by monitoring the ground and providing situational awareness, also known as Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or JISR. This gives decision makers an increased tactical awareness of what’s happening on the ground, in the air and at sea, allowing accurate decision making based on real time shared information.
The five RQ-4D “Phoenix” drones and the associated command and control ground stations make up the AGS system. NATO will operate and maintain the system on behalf of all 30 Allies.
The NATO AGS RQ-4D is based on the U.S. Air Force wide area surveillance Global Hawk. The high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned NATO AGS system, which includes the multi-platform radar technology insertion program radar, provides leading-edge intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability that is able to deliver near real-time situational awareness 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Led by Northrop Grumman, the NATO industry team is comprised of companies from across NATO’s member nations, including Leonardo, Airbus, and Kongsberg and other defence companies from all AGS Procuring Nations.
Nato AGS – Alliance Ground Surveillance
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.