The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has received first of its total five ordered Alliance Ground Surveillance drones based on US’ Global Hawks, on Thursday.
“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,” NATO said in a statement.
“I welcome the arrival of the first AGS aircraft in Sigonella,” said the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels.
The aircraft took off on Wednesday from Palmdale Air Base in California, US and landed at AGS Main Operating Base in Italy 22 hours later.
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, NATO said.
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 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability to NATO, to the benefit of all NATO Allies, the statement read.
All five AGS aircraft 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.