It took place today, Friday 20th of March, an important NATO visit to the air base of Sigonella, in Italy, headquarter of the 41st Antisom Italian Air Force flight unit. The crowded international delegation, accompanied by a defense and air force general staff delegation represented by air division general Paolo Magro, chief of the III unit of air force general staff, and by colonel Luca Tonello, commander of the 41st flight unit, did a deep inspection of the base, to evaluate the possibility to host an Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) component. At the end of two weeks of hard work the potential of the 41st flight unit has been confirmed to support the future NATO activities, thanks to its known and appreciated abilities.
About the AGS
The AGS program aims to supply NATO with a system that will be able to guarantee a clear ground situation of the area of interest, in order to improve the safety of the military and civil personnel. The AGS abilities will allow NATO to execute a continuous surveillance of wide areas with non-piloted air platforms, with a great flight range, operating from high altitudes and distances, in every weather condition. Using technologically advanced beacon sensors, AGS Core will discover and “Trace” moving objects in the observed area, and will supply images of stationary objects. At the same way of the AWACS, the airborne radar system that monitors the air space of the Treaty, the AGS will be able to observe events on the ground, supplying a clear report of the situation updated before, during and if necessary after NATO operations.
To the program, after the progressive exit of Belgium, France, Hungary, Netherlands, Portugal, Greece and Spain, are now participating 17 nations, including Italy.
The AGS Core will be an integrated system consisting of an air segment and a ground segment that will be managed by a NATO Force Command in Sigonella, that will use 800 men.
The air segment will be based on the Block 40 version of the US RQ-4B Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The UAV will be equipped with the state-of-the-art multi-platform radar technology insertion program (MP-RTIP) ground surveillance radar sensor, and also with an extensive suite of line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight long-range wideband data links.
The ground segment will provide an interface between the AGS Core system and a wide range of C2ISR systems to interconnect with and provide data to multiple deployed and non-deployed operational users, including reach-back facilities remote from the surveillance area.
The primary ground segment component will consist of a number of ground stations in different configurations, such as mobile and transportable configurations, which will provide data link connectivity, data processing and exploitation capabilities, and interfaces for interoperability with C2ISR systems. The AGS Core ground segment will also include dedicated mission support facilities at the AGS Main Operating Bases (MOB), and ground stations for flight control of the UAV component of the system.
The composition of the AGS Core system will provide NATO with considerable flexibility in employing its surveillance capabilities in a manner that can be tailored to the needs of any emerging situation.
The system will be interoperable with interoperable national airborne stand-off ground surveillance systems belonging to NATO countries, thus forming a system of systems.
In July 2007, the AGS nations decided to formally terminate the mixed fleet programme of record and move forward expeditiously with a solution including 4 Airbus 321, 3 UAV Global Hawk Off-The-Shelf and a ground segment foreseeing a mix of 11 Ground and Transportable Station, quickly moving towards the Uav Off The Shelf (Ots) solution equipped with the R-TIP US radar.
The AGS Capability Steering Committee (CSC) is responsible to the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) for the launching of the Programme. The Alliance Ground Surveillance Support Staff (AGS3) supports the CSC, drawing upon the NATO Command, Control and Communications Agency for contracting support as necessary. The AGS3 serves as the informational hub between the AGS nations, NATO and industry. The AGS Implementation Office (AGS IO) at SHAPE is responsible for ensuring the successful operational integration and employment of the NATO AGS Core Capability.