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Non-Stop Flight from California to Sicily Completes NATO UAV Squadron

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An RQ-4D Phoenix UAV from Northrop Grumman Corporation completed a 20-hour non-stop trans-Atlantic flight from California to Sicily, where it joined the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) squadron on Nov. 12 at Sigonella Air Base.

The air vehicle is the last of five NATO RQ-4D aircraft, completing deliveries to the Main Operating Base (MOB) of the NATO AGS system of systems comprised of aircraft, ground and support segments. Work remains to complete Handover of the AGS System to the NATO AGS Force (NAGSF).

“Once the NATO AGS system achieves Handover, NATO Commanders will have greater flexibility and redundancy to support the mission of protecting ground troops, civilian populations and international borders in peacetime and times of conflict as well as humanitarian missions during natural disasters,” said Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman.

The NATO AGS RQ-4D is based on the U.S. Air Force wide area surveillance Global Hawk. The high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned NATO AGS system, which includes the multi-platform radar technology insertion program radar, provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability that is able to deliver near real-time situational awareness 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Led by Northrop Grumman, the NATO industry team is comprised of companies from across NATO’s member nations, including Leonardo, Airbus, and Kongsberg and other defence companies from all AGS Procuring Nations.

The first of the five aircraft in the fleet landed in Sigonella in November 2019. NATO”S AGS capability is a custom-made system designed to be shared with the entire alliance of 30 member nations.

Image courtesy NATO

Image courtesy NATO

The RQ-4D Global Hawk is based on Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 design: a high-altitude, remotely-piloted, surveillance aircraft. With a broad overview from height, it provides surveillance data from  synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and  electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors. It can cover up to 40,000 square miles of subject area per day.

“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,” said NATO AGS Force Commander Brigadier General Houston Cantwell.


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