The first of five Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft has arrived at the AGS Main Operating Base in Italy.
The remotely piloted aircraft took off on 20 November 2019 from Palmdale Air Base, California, United States, and landed at the AGS Main Operating Base, Sigonella, Italy, on 21 November 2019.
This marks a significant step for NATO, and for the NCI Agency. The Agency is responsible for many of the systems and services required to operate AGS. The Agency systems will rapidly distribute the Joint ISR information AGS collects across the NATO Command Structure and to Nations. With the arrival of the first aircraft in Italy, the Agency enters the next phase of its support to the project, which aims at preparing other NATO Commands and Agencies to take over the capability.
Matt Roper, Chief of the NCI Agency's Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Service Line, said: "The arrival of AGS is a major milestone in the development of a critical Alliance capability. The NCI Agency, with our expertise in CIS and Joint ISR, is ready to contribute to the achievement of full operational capability of the AGS."
A group of 15 Allies is acquiring the AGS system, which includes five aircraft based on the US Air Force Block 40 Global Hawk. NATO will then operate and maintain them on behalf of all NATO Allies. The aircraft have been uniquely adapted to NATO requirements to provide a state-of-the-art ISR capability to NATO.
Laryssa Patten, AGS Portfolio Manager for the NCI Agency's JISR Service Line, said: “Easy access to timely, accurate information is vital to the continued success of Alliance operations. The Agency is now one step closer to ensuring NATO receives such intelligence from the AGS system."
AGS will be a significant contributor to improved situational awareness and thus, improved decision-making. Just as the NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) monitors Alliance airspace, AGS will be able to observe what is happening on the earth's surface, providing situational awareness before, during and, if needed, after NATO operations.
In 2016, the Agency set up the IT infrastructure at the AGS Main Operating Base in Italy. Since then, the Agency team has been working to integrate the networks, communications, voice services, IT infrastructure and NATO applications at unclassified, restricted and secret levels with the rest of the Alliance. This critical work ensures the NATO AGS Force can communicate with the rest of the NATO Commands. Today, the Agency's Communications and Information Systems (CIS) Support Unit in Sigonella supports the NATO AGS Force with 25 NCI Agency staff members.
The Agency's role in AGS will continue to expand as the AGS Force reaches full operational capability. The Agency will connect AGS to NATO, by connecting the capability to the NATO Secret Wide Area Network. Furthermore, the NCI Agency will also provide satellite communications for the remotely piloted system of AGS.