Northrop Grumman has commenced production of the first Nato alliance ground surveillance (AGS) Block 40 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) at its Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Mississippi, US. The UAS represents the first of the five Block 40 Global Hawk the company is to manufacture as part of a $1.7bn contract awarded by the NATO Alliance Ground Management Agency in May 2012. Dubbed a major contribution to Nato’s joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability, the AGS system is expected to provide Nato with unprecedented near real-time terrestrial and maritime situational awareness information across the full range of military and civil-military missions, including peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations.
Nato AGS Management Agency general manager Jim Edge said, "The variety of sensors and ability to support a wide range of missions will revolutionise how NATO collects ISR." Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems High-Altitude, Long Endurance Enterprise vice-president Jim Culmo said, "With the ability to fly up to 60,000ft and for more than 30 hours, the NATO AGS system is uniquely suited to support NATO missions worldwide," Apart from the Global Hawk, the AGS system also features the multimode multi-platform radar technology insertion (MP-RTIP) airborne ground surveillance radar sensor to provide all-weather, day or night intelligence, and an extensive suite of network-centric enabled line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight long-range, wide-band data links. Additional equipment include European-sourced ground assets to provide in-theatre support to commanders of deployed forces, mobile and transportable ground stations, and an array of interoperable Nato and national command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. Northrop’s industrial team includes Cassidian, Selex ES, Kongsberg, and major defence companies from all participating nations. The AGS system is being acquired along with 15 allies, including Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the US.