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NATO: Surveillance Drone Fleet Mission-Ready

NATO has announced that a fleet of five Northrop Grumman RQ-4D Phoenix high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) drones are now ready for operations.

The announcement was made following the arrival of the final NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft in Sigonella, Italy, in November last year.

The AGS system, developed by a Northrop Grumman-led team including Leonardo, Airbus, and Kongsberg, was conceived five years ago by the 30-nation alliance to provide a comprehensive image of the ground situation to NATO commanders.

The purpose of the remotely-piloted fleet is to “substantially increase the Alliance’s awareness, indications and warnings of what is happening around its borders,” NATO said in a statement.

RQ-4D Phoenix Unmanned Aircraft

The aircraft is capable of surveying wider areas from a higher altitude than current platforms, regardless of weather conditions, and has been adapted to NATO requirements.

“IOC {initial operational capability] represents a culmination of collective efforts across several international organizations. Since its inception, each group has played a crucial role to take NATO AGS from concept to reality,” NATO AGS Force Commander Brigadier General Houston Cantwell stated.

“This also demonstrates NATO’s commitment to our collective defense and our commitment to developing cutting-edge technologies and information dominance over our adversaries,” he explained.

Alliance Ground Surveillance System

The AGS system comprises the five aircraft and associated command and control base stations.

While the air segment features the RQ-4D, the ground system comprises a number of ground stations that provide data-link connectivity, data processing, and exploitation capabilities, apart from interfacing with other segments of the system.

Meanwhile, the support segment of the system is based out of the AGS main operating base in Sigonella.

The system will be procured by 15 NATO allies: Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the US.

However, the intelligence gathered by the system will be shared among all 30 NATO members.

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