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NATO’s Fifth RQ-4D Phoenix Drone Arrives to Complete Surveillance Fleet

In a program milestone, the last RQ-4D NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance aircraft was delivered to the AGS Main Operating Base in Sigonella, Italy.

On Thursday, the fifth and last RQ-4D NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) landed at the AGS Main Operating Base in Sigonella, Italy to finalize the alliance’s AGS fleet in Europe.

Taking off from Palmdale Air Force Base in California at 6:04 pm Wednesday, November 11, the RQ-4D arrived in Sigonella 1:41 pm yesterday, in what officials described as a landmark achievement in the NATO AGS surveillance program.

Having been delivered in five installments over nearly a year, the NATO RQ-4D remotely piloted aircraft will be deployed by European ground command and control stations to provide “state-of-the-art Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability to NATO.”

The NATO AGS force conducted its first test flight of the remotely piloted Phoenix on June 4 of this year.

With a flight time of more than 20 hours, the Phoenix utilizes sensors that collect “Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery and Moving Target Information data which [transfers] to the NAGSF Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination center for near real-time processing, and future distribution to Allies.”

The AGS system features air, ground, and support components which will provide commanders on the ground with broad situational awareness for the protection of troops and civilians as well as in counter-terrorism operations, border control, and crisis management.

Commenting on the occasion of the final RQ-4D delivery, NATO AGS Force Commander Brigadier General Houston Cantwell remarked, “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. We remain committed to advancing this important capability to the benefit of the entire Alliance.”

The surveillance drone system is being developed for 15 NATO allies for deployment throughout Europe to provide security for all 30 Alliance members. 

After delivery of the final Phoenix aircraft, the required documentation will be completed by the Italian Airworthiness Authorities and NATO Ground Surveillance to be handed over to the NATO AGS Force in the coming months.

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