Australia will be watching closely as NATO’s Global Hawk network starts to come together.
Northrop Grumman and members of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA) celebrated an important milestone last Saturday when their first of five Global Hawk unmanned aircraft completed its first test flight at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) will provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities over much of Europe.
It will be based in Sigonella, on the island of Sicily, Italy, which is already home to US Air Force-owned Global Hawks.
The Royal Australian Air Force plans to operate up to seven MQ-4C Tritons – a maritime derivative of the Global Hawk – out of RAAF Base Edinburgh in Adelaide before 2020.
A derivative of the wide-area surveillance Global Hawk, NATO’s unmanned aircraft will have the ability to fly for up to 30 hours at a time, on high-altitude, long-endurance missions, providing persistent wide-area land and maritime surveillance in all-weather.
The five aircraft will be backed up by mobile general ground stations (MGGS), the first of which was recently unveiled by Airbus Defence and Space.
The mobile stations will exploit radar images acquired by the Global Hawks, via a direct or satellite broadband connection and can be integrated with other C2ISR (command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) systems operated by NATO member states.
MGGSs will provide information about stationary and moving objects on the ground to local unit commander and can be distributed across NATO forces.
The MGGSs are each integrated into two containers that can be transported by truck, aircraft, train or ship.
NATO has ordered a total of six MGGSs and five Global Hawks to cover Europe.
NATO is a defence alliance that includes the USA, Canada and 26 Western European nations – 15 of whom pitched in to buy this system.