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On 12 November 2020, the fifth and final NATO RQ-4D PHOENIX UAV landed at the Main Operating Base (MOB) of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance system (AGS) in Sigonella, Sicily, meaning the main part of the AGS has been delivered. The NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force (NAGSF) is currently preparing for Initial Operating Capability (IOC), which is to be reported later this year before the system is expected to become fully operational in 2025.

The AGS consists of an air, ground and support segment. The air segment consists of the five RQ-4Ds equipped with advanced ground surveillance radar and long-range communications. The aircraft are able to deliver near real-time situational awarenes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, almost in real time. In the ground segment, mobile and deployable ground stations are used to remotely control the UAVs, process and distribute data while maintaining connections with each other and the stationary and deployed command centres. The support segment provides special services at the AGS MOB to ensure operations.

NATO Co-operation

15 of the 30 NATO Allies are involved in the AGS in terms of finance and personnel: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the US. The intelligence data collected by the AGS system will be available to all NATO members.

The RQ-4B GLOBAL HAWK Block 40, weighing a maximum of 15 tons, will be powered by a Rolls Royce turbofan engine with a thrust of 35.6 kN. With a wingspan of 39.89 m (like a passenger aircraft) and a length of 14.5 m, the UAV can fly almost 20 km high and has a top speed of 637 km/h at its optimum altitude. Its operational radius is estimated at over 5,500 km. A weight of 1,360 kg is specified for the reconnaissance and communication systems.

Gerhard Heiming