NATO has conducted an early assessment of the operational utility of its future Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system, on a Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle participating in the recent multinational exercise dubbed “Unified Vision”.
Run from Norway’s Ørland air base in late May and involving roughly 2,000 personnel from 18 nations, the exercise was intended to demonstrate the ability of NATO nations to utilise joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets and information more effectively than during the Unified Protector campaign staged over Libya in 2011.
One participant was a US Air Force Global Hawk, which the UK Ministry of Defence says “flew from an air base in the Mediterranean and across several European countries, including the UK, to and from the trial area in Norway”. This was the first time that an RQ-4 had been flown through its national airspace, it adds, and the aircraft transited through a temporary segregated route at an altitude above 50,000ft.
US Air Force
“The flights made a useful contribution to understanding how remotely piloted air systems can be safely integrated within the existing aviation framework,” the UK MoD says. Earlier this year, it revealed that four of its personnel involved in a “Seedcorn” maritime patrol aircraft activity with the US Navy are to undergo training on the service’s MQ-4C Triton development of the Global Hawk from this month.
To be based at NAS Sigonella in Sicily, the AGS capability will include five radar-equipped Global Hawks and supporting ground exploitation equipment.
Multiple other assets were involved in the Unified Vision activity, including manned tactical reconnaissance and NATO E-3 AWACS aircraft and additional smaller UAVs.