NATO’s Ground Surveillance Aircraft gets ready for operations 30 December, 2015

NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA) members and Northrop Grumman Corporation witnessed NATO’s first Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft executing range of test points before landing at Edwards Air Force Base.  The test flight marks the start of six months of ground and airborne testing at Edwards before the aircraft is sent to its new home in Sigonella, Italy.

NATO AGS is a derivative of the wide-area surveillance Global Hawk, with a few small changes in the communications software to meet certain criteria for operation in Europe. Like the Block 40 RQ-4 Global Hawk, the unmanned aircraft has the ability to fly for up to 30 hours at a time.  The high-altitude long-endurance system will perform all-weather, persistent wide-area terrestrial and maritime surveillance in near real-time. The NATO-owned and operated system will provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to support a range of NATO missions such as protection of ground troops and civilian populations, border control, maritime safety and humanitarian assistance.

NATO AGS will be based in Sigonella, Italy. The Italian airbase is already home to U.S Air Force-owned Global Hawks. All 28 Alliance nations will take part in the long-term support of the program, but it is initially being procured by 15 NATO nations: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States. The NATO AGS system will include five aircraft and European-sourced mobile and transportable ground stations that will provide data link connectivity, data processing and exploitation capabilities to multiple deployed and non-deployed operational users. 

Issue 86