NATO's first RQ-4D arrives at Sigonella

The first of five Northrop Grumman RQ-4D Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for NATO has arrived at Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella, Italy.

The aircraft departed Palmdale AFB, California at 1000hrs on November 20, arriving at NAS Sigonella on the island of Sicily, Italy, 22 hours later (November 21). Sigonella will be the AGS' main operating base. The arrival of the RQ-4D marks a major milestone in the AGS programme, which involves 15 NATO member states, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the US. 

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RQ-4D, coded MT AV-SA-0015, on the ground at NAS Sigonella. NATO/HFw Christian Timmig

Gen Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary, said: “I welcome the arrival of the first Alliance Ground Surveillance aircraft in Sigonella. This demonstrates that NATO allies are committed to modernising the alliance and investing to deliver key cutting-edge capabilities to the benefit of our shared security.”

Based on the US Air Force's (USAF's) RQ-4 Block 40 Global Hawk, the AGS has been uniquely adapted as per NATO requirements and will conduct all-weather intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

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MT AV-SA-0015 rolls out after landing at NAS Sigonella. NATO/HFw Christian Timmig​​​​​

The other four RQ-4Ds are currently in different phases of developmental flight tests. Once all aircraft have been delivered, the NATO fleet will enter a verification period prior to being completely handed over to the AGS Force. NATO expects to award the RQ-4D with its initial operational capability in the first half of 2020.