North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) AGS program

Program Overview

After many years exploring options for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-owned and operated airborne ground surveillance capability, 13 of the 28 NATO members signed a program memorandum of understanding (PMoU) in September 2009. They agreed to fund the development phase of a program of record with an airborne segment based on the Block 40 RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which includes the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) sensor and supporting ground elements.

In May 2012 during the NATO Summit in Chicago, Northrop Grumman signed a $1.7 billion (€1.2 billion) contract for NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system. Operating under NATO command, AGS will be the major data source for NATO's system for Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR). The trans-Atlantic, multi-national contract supports NATO's ISR requirements for multinational theater operations, peacekeeping missions, and disaster relief efforts.

NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) systemWith its main operating base at Sigonella, Sicily, NATO AGS will be co-located with the U.S. Air Force Global Hawks and the U.S. Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAS, further advancing synergies across the three programs in operational capability, life cycle logistics, and sustainment.

The 15 participating nations include Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States; all 28 alliance nations will participate in the long-term support of the program.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the NATO AGS program, and builds the Global Hawk air vehicle, supporting systems and payloads, including the MP-RTIP radar. The company's primary industrial team includes EADS Deutschland GmbH (Cassidian), Selex Galileo and Kongsberg, as well as leading defense industries including ICZ, A.S., Retia, A.S., Aktors OÜ, Komerccentrs DATI grupa, Elsis LTD., Konstrukta-Defence, A.S., ComTrade D.O.O., BIANOR, Technologica, Zavod Za Telefonna Aparatura Ad (ZTA AD), SELEX ELSAG, Elettra Communications, UTI Systems, and SES.

Unmanned Fleet

The choice of the RQ-4, equipped with the MP-RTIP sensor, for the NATO AGS air segment reflects the basic operational requirements of the AGS program. The performance parameters of the RQ-4 are unmatched, with the ability to fly at altitudes of up to 60,000 feet for more than 32 hours at speeds approaching 340 knots, well above airspace occupied by commercial traffic. Moreover, the RQ-4 has the ability to be deployed 2,000 nautical miles from its main operating base with a resulting on-station time exceeding 24 hours, thus ensuring a ready capability for worldwide operations and providing incomparable operational capabilities.

Additionally, the RQ-4 is an operationally proven ground surveillance platform accumulating more than tens of thousands of flying hours in operations supporting coalition forces in current theaters of operation. The choice of the MP-RTIP sensor, which is capable of detecting and tracking moving objects as well as providing radar imagery of target locations and stationary objects, provides a low-risk, low-cost approach for NATO.

System Architecture

The system architecture and the configuration of the NATO AGS ground element, which provides real-time data, intelligence and target identification to commanders within and beyond line of sight, will be wholly produced by European industry, offering direct work in the program for the participating nations. It is especially developed to accommodate a network-centric approach, with emphasis on a local area network design and real-time exchange of data between AGS users. Also, the use of standardization will ensure system interoperability, not only with the NATO C3I systems, but also national ISR systems. Through the AGS ground element, NATO forces will also have access to nationally acquired reconnaissance and surveillance data.

The unmanned platform configuration and its inherent identification capability and a network-centric approach, represents a capability that could perform NATO missions fully independently during peacetime and early crisis. The AGS system will provide real-time data, intelligence, and even target identification to NATO users within and beyond line of sight. This solution demonstrates a truly transatlantic approach to NATO's requirements and will provide significant work share directly in the program for national industries of participating nations.


Wingspan: 130.9 ft (39.9 m)
Length: 47.6 ft (14.5m)
Height: 15.4 ft (4.7 m)
Gross Takeoff Weight: 32,250 lbs (14,628 kg)
Maximum Altitude: 60,000 ft (18.3 km)
Payload: 3,000 lbs (1,360 kg)
Ferry Range: 12,300 nm (22,780 km)
Loiter Velocity: 310 knots TAS (True Air Speed)
On-Station Endurance at 1,200 nm: 24 hours
Maximum Endurance: 32+ hours

Related Links:

NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA)
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)