“This second ferry flight across the Atlantic is another major achievement on our road to establishing a leading-edge Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability for all NATO Allies,” said the NATO AGS Force Commander, Brigadier General Phillip Stewart, who oversees the standing up of the unit at the Italian Air Force Base in Sigonella.
The aircraft was received by the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA) General Manager Brigadier General Volker Samanns, as well as AGS Force Commander Brigadier General Phillip Stewart and other senior officials. This latest crossing of the Atlantic from California to Italy was entirely controlled by a pilot at the AGS Main Operating Base in Sigonella, in the same manner as the ferry flight of the first NATO AGS aircraft on 21 November 2019.
The NATO AGS RQ-4D aircraft, also known as “Phoenix”, took off on Wednesday, 18 December 2019 from Edwards Air Force Base in California, United States at 8:40 local time and landed around 20 hours later at the AGS Main Operating Base in Sigonella.
“Having received the second of five Phoenix aircraft here on schedule means that we can now continue developing the NATO AGS programme and work towards Initial Operational Capability in the coming months,” General Stewart stated. Once all five aircraft arrive in Italy in the course of 2020, NATO’s collectively owned and operated Alliance Ground Surveillance system will provide a unique state-of-the-art capability procured by 15 Allies and shared with all 29 Alliance members. With two aircraft in Europe, multi-aircraft system level performance verifications with NAGSMA and industry can continue to confirm the system provides what it is expected to provide and what has been contracted for.
The US-built RQ-4D Phoenix and the Europe-made ground support elements will evenutally be handed over to the NATO AGS Force. The entire AGS system is a custom-made system uniquely adapted to NATO requirements and specifically designed to meet the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) requirements identified by the North Atlantic Council and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
At present a 300-strong international staff is continuing to stand up the NATO AGS Force and will take the project to initial operational capability in the coming months. As the other three RQ-4D Phoenix aircraft will be ferrying into the Main Operating Base at Sigonella, the Force will continue to grow to approximately 600 and gradually move into newly built facilities. The NATO AGS Force’s mission is to conduct full-spectrum intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations and distribute products in support of all NATO Allies. It is an operational asset of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and comes under operational control of Allied Air Command.
Photo credits: NATO / Christian Timmig