A NATO RQ-4D Phoenix remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) has completed its first 24-hour mission as it gears toward full operational capability.
The drone took off towards the Black Sea and returned 24-hours later to home air base in Sigonella, Italy, on November 16.
“The AGS team conducted its first mission of 24-hour duration demonstrating the team’s continuous efforts in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and therefore enhancing a vital allied capability,” the Allied Air Command said.
“I am very proud of the teamwork accomplished,” said Brigadier General Houston Cantwell, Commander of the NATO AGS Force. “With this 24-hour mission, we have proven that we are on the right track to full operational capability and are a valuable asset to NATO.”
The 24-hour mission took place after the alliance received its fifth and final RPAS from Northrop Grumman in November last year and achieved initial operational capability with the system in February this year.
Based on the US Air Force block 40 Global Hawk, the NATO RQ-4D aircraft has been uniquely adapted to NATO requirements, to provide an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to NATO.
Companies from across NATO’s member nations, including Leonardo, Airbus and Kongsberg, comprise the Northrop Grumman-led industry team that developed the NATO AGS capability.
The challenge of the 24-hour mission focused on the airmen and soldiers operating the system; in particular their ability to hand over smoothly between shifts. The sensor operators, who are responsible for controlling the synthetic aperture radar, were also changed at the same time as the pilots.
At present, the multinational NATO AGS Force comprises of approximately 375 personnel from 24 nations.