NATO Performs First Ground-Based Mobile Drone Surveillance Outside Italy

NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force has demonstrated its mobile general ground station outside Italy for the first time.

The test showed the alliance’s expeditionary capability to leverage data from a remote location collected by an RQ-4D Global Hawk drone.

As part of the trial, the surveillance force established a control center within NATO Allied Air Command headquarters at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The 24-person detachment touched ground on November 10 with a commercial road convoy and was deployed until November 22.

Northrop Grumman RQ-4D Phoenix
NATO AGS RQ-4D remotely piloted aircraft at Sigonella air base, Italy. Photo: NATO

During the demonstration, the surveillance force and other contractors integrated connectivity and systems to the ground station, linking with the RD-4D drone’s monitoring functions as it carried out reconnaissance flights along Europe’s eastern flank.

The team collected and transferred data from the aircraft, marking the activity’s success.

“The purpose of the deployment to Ramstein is to achieve a checkmark on the Force’s way to NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance enhanced initial operational capability,” US Air Force Capt. Jacob Sanborn said.

“We simulate exploitation of the data our RQ-4D RPA gathers in flight and make it available to the local ground force commander in the form of basic intelligence products. And we relay the information to our Main Operating Base in Sigonella Italy for further distribution.”

‘An Excellent Demonstration’

NATO currently operates five RQ-4D drones from its base in Sigonella, Italy, where the surveillance force collects, processes, and relays intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information.

The force’s ground detachments comprise fixed, mobile, and transportable stations responsible for ally interoperability through data processing, exploitation, data-link connectivity, and interfaces.

Through NATO and US networks, the ground detachments can collaborate with multiple deployed and non-deployed operators and facilities far from surveillance areas.

“This is an excellent demonstration of NAGSF’s ability to deploy a mobile exploitation element; I am impressed by the capability of the team to link up with the RQ-4D RPA in flight and exploit the collected data, making it available on-site,” Italian Air Force Maj. Gen. Gianluca Ercolani said.

“From our operational perspective, this deployment greatly helps NATO’s procedures to collect, process and distribute intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance results within our organisation and with the Allies – even out of a remote location.”

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