PALMDALE – Northrop Grumman and North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials unveiled its first NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft at the Palmdale plant, marking an important step in expanding the organization’s joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (IRS) capability.
Intended to support a full range of military and civil missions to ensure collective security for member nations, the AGS aircraft is a NATO-owned and operated wide-area, all weather, 24-hour surveillance program that will provide a persistent and complete picture of any situation on the ground, according to NATO officials.
More specifically, the unmanned aircraft is a wide-area surveillance Global Hawk that provides a protection solution to the alliance’s missions involving ground troops and civilian populations, as well as border control and maritime safety.
“What you see here today is the result of one of the commitments made at the 2012 NATO Summit – to bring this advanced and critical persistent ISR capability to the Alliance to help ensure we can continue to address the range of challenges our member and other allied nations face,” Erling Wang, chairman of the NATO AGS Management Organization, said at Thursday’s unveiling of the aircraft in Palmdale.
Trans-Atlantic teamwork was described as the most critical element to the program’s success. The event featured several representatives from Northrop Grumman’s primary industrial team, including Airbus Defence and Space (Germany), Selex ES (Italy) and Kongsberg (Norway).
Jim Edge, General Manager of the NATO AGS Management Agency, said there were no small roles played in the rollout of the NATO AGS program.
“The aircraft you are about to see is a testimony to getting our relationships right,” Edge said, noting that the aircraft is scheduled to be operational by Dec. 17. “Trust, loyalty and respect cannot be taken for granted – they must be nurtured every day to make this team a success.”
Janis Pamiljans, general manager of unmanned systems for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, agreed that multi-national teamwork made possible a surveillance system that will be the major data source for NATO’s joint operations.
“The level of collaboration required to bring together successfully so many international partners in the development of this tremendous system of systems capability for NATO speaks to the commitment and strength of the trans-Atlantic relationships we have built with our key partners, to deliver what is truly a European program,” Pamiljans said.
Operating under NATO command, the AGS system will provide a surveillance capability of operating at an altitude of 60,000 feet and with the ability to fly for up to 30 hours at a time.
Officials said the high-altitude long-endurance system aircraft is equipped with leading-edge technology, including the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) sensor – which will provide critical data to commanders during operations in any weather, day or night.
A $1.7 billion procurement contract for the NATO AGS system was signed in May 2012, supporting NATO’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements for multi-national theater operations, peacekeeping missions and disaster-relief efforts, according to Northrop Grumman press statements.
The contract covered the purchase and initial operation and maintenance of five Block 40 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft equipped with an advanced ground surveillance radar sensor: the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP).
This radar is capable of detecting and tracking moving objects and providing radar imagery of target locations and stationary objects.
In addition, European industry contributors will provide development and delivery of the transportable ground stations suitable for in-theater support directly to commanders of deployed forces, mobile ground stations for close support to moving operations and remote workstations for higher-echelon commands.
NATO AGS will have its main operating base at Sigonella, Italy, and will be co-located with the U.S. Air Force Global Hawks and the U.S. Navy Broad Area maritime Surveillance unmanned aircraft systems.
“One may say that the sun never sets on the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance system,” Pamiljans said. “We have worked 24/7 for the success of this program.”