On July 15, 2020 the third remotely piloted aircraft of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Programme arrived at 13:37 local time at its new homebase in Sigonella, Italy. The landing marks yet another step for NATO on its way to acquiring a total of five RQ-4D remotely piloted aircraft, referred to as “Phoenix”, all to be based at Sigonella.
“The Ferry Flight of aircraft NATO-03 from California to Sicily is a significant milestone in the Alliance Ground Surveillance procurement Programme, Brigadier General Volker Samanns, the General Manager of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency said.
“Having now three Phoenix aircraft in Sigonella gives the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency more flexibility in working test and verification issues, by simultaneously providing the equipment for familiarization and training”, he added.
Brigadier General Houston Cantwell, who took over Command of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force earlier this month, was on site to witness the landing. “This is a great debut for me.” he said. “This is another important milestone on our way to establishing a leading-edge Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability for all NATO Allies”.
This latest crossing of the Atlantic from California to Italy was entirely controlled by pilots at the Alliance Ground Surveillance Force’s Main Operating Base in Sigonella, in the same manner as the ferry flight of the first and second Alliance Ground Surveillance aircraft in the end of 2019.
The Phoenix took off on Tuesday, 14 July 2020 from Edwards Air Force Base in California in the United States at 07:47 local time and landed at Sigonella around 21.8 hours later. The aircraft is now scheduled to undergo a system level performance verification phase before being officially handed over to the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force.
Once all five aircraft have arrived at the Alliance Ground Surveillance Main Operating Base in Sigonella by the end of 2020, NATO’s collectively owned and operated Alliance Ground Surveillance system will provide a unique state-of-the-art capability procured by 15 Allies and shared with all 30 Alliance members.
The entire Alliance Ground Surveillance system is a custom-made system uniquely adapted to NATO requirements and specifically designed to meet the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance requirements identified by the North Atlantic Council and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.