5th NATO RQ-4D Phoenix UAS arrives at AGS Main Operating Base

On 12 November 2020, the fifth and last NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft arrived at the AGS Main Operating Base in Sigonella, Italy. The arrival of the RQ-4D aircraft at its home base in Europe represents a new milestone in the NATO AGS Programme, completing the NATO AGS fleet.
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Thenfith and last NATO RQ-4D Phenix has landed at its home base in Sigonella, Italy (Picture source: NATO AGS Team)

The unmanned aircraft took off from Palmdale Air Force Base in California at 18:04 local time on 11 November 2020 and landed at Sigonella at 13:41 local time the following day, almost 20 hours later.

“I am proud of the NATO AGS Force and of the entire AGS team. The arrival of the fifth and final Phoenix Aircraft here in Sigonella is a landmark achievement for everyone. We have accomplished a tremendous amount of training and preparation already and we are looking forward to continue our hard work with the new and final aircraft. Along with our Italian hosts, SHAPE, NATO nations and industry we will continue expanding our infrastructure and capabilities in the coming months. We remain committed to advancing this important capability to the benefit of the entire Alliance”, said NATO AGS Force Commander Brigadier General Houston Cantwell.

Procuring the Alliance Ground Surveillance System is the responsibility of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA).

“Roughly speaking one year after the first ferry flight, the landing of the fifth NATO AGS RQ-4D aircraft completes the Ferry Flight of AGS air segment. No doubt, there is significant work ahead of us, but all of us here at NAGSMA are now focused on moving the Programme forward and handing over the AGS system to the NATO AGS Force. I am proud to be the General Manager of such a highly motivated, international team here at NAGSMA – it’s all about their teamwork and their commitment beyond expectations”, said Brigadier General Volker Samanns, the General Manager of the Agency.

The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk/Phenix is a high-altitude, remotely-piloted, surveillance aircraft. It was initially designed by Ryan Aeronautical (now part of Northrop Grumman), and known as Tier II+ during development. The Global Hawk performs duties similar to that of the Lockheed U-2. The RQ-4 provides a broad overview and systematic surveillance using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and long-range electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2) of terrain a day, an area the size of South Korea or Iceland.

The Global Hawk is used as a High-Altitude Long Endurance platform covering the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide military operations. The U.S. Navy has developed the Global Hawk into the MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance platform.

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Left: NATO AGS Force Commander Brigadier General Houston R. CANTWELL. Right: NATO AGS Force Deputy Commander Col. Stefano BIANCA (Picture source: NATO AGS Force)

Following the arrival of RQ-4D Phoenix 5, the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency and the Italian Airworthiness Authorities will continue to wrap up the required documentation and hand-over the system to the NATO AGS Force in the coming months.

The first of five NATO AGS Phoenix aircraft landed in Sigonella on Thursday 21 November 2019, followed by the arrival of the second aircraft on 19 December 2019, by the third aircraft on 15 July 2020 and by the fourth aircraft on 26 July 2020.

NATO’s AGS capability is a custom-made system procured by 15 Allies to be shared with the entire Alliance. It is uniquely adapted to NATO requirements and specifically designed to meet the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance requirements identified by the North Atlantic Council and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. NATO’s collectively owned and operated AGS system will provide a unique state-of-the-art capability for all 30 Alliance members.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the fith and last NATO RQ-4D Phenix at its home base in Sigonella, Italy (Picture source: NATO)