The NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) unit based at Sigonella in Italy has taken delivery of its fifth and final Northrop Grumman RQ-4D Phoenix unmanned system.
Based on the USAF’s RQ-4B Block 40 Global Hawk and fitted with the same multi-platform radar technology insertion program (MP-RTIP) ground surveillance radar, the RQ-4D differs in that other sensors, communications and the ground control segment are primarily of European origin. The delivery of the fifth aircraft comes less than one year after the delivery of the first aircraft.
NATO says the RQ-4D Phoenix provides a real-time, persistent wife-area ground surveillance capability to NATO member states. From NAS Sigonella on the east coast of Sicily, once the capability is operational it will be able to cover all of the Mediterranean, and most of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
“The arrival of the fifth and final Phoenix aircraft here in Sigonella is a landmark achievement for everyone,” commander of the NATO AGS Force, USAF Brig Gen Houston Cantwell said in a statement. “We have accomplished a tremendous amount of training and preparation already and we are looking forward to [continuing] our hard work with the new and final aircraft.”
A video of the aircraft being manufactured can be seen here. With the MQ-4C Triton maritime ISR system also based on the Global Hawk, this video provides a good insight into the manufacturing process of the RAAF’s Triton capability, the first of which commenced production in early November.