SIGONELLA, Italy - For the first time, the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) Force launched three missions on three consecutive days this week, marking a major success for the multinational unit towards providing critical intelligence to NATO leaders.
"A year ago, the Force flew our first RQ-4D Phoenix unmanned aerial vehicle flight here at Sigonella," says NATO AGS Force commander, Brigadier General Houston Cantwell. "We continue refining our processes, fine-tuning our four aircraft and optimizing our NATO communications networks. Flying three missions in three consecutive days is a real achievement for NATO, and I congratulate the entire team who made it happen. It's a culmination of combined effort of NATO and Host Nation organisations and industry, but ultimately a reflection of the talented multi-national service members here at Sigonella," he added.
Ultimately this is a reflection of the talented multi-national service members here at Sigonella
At present, the multinational NATO AGS Force – comprised of some 350 posts from 23 nations - has four of the total five aircraft available for enduring missions; one was flown to the States in April to receive an upgrade to allow tracking of moving maritime targets. With more than half of the authorized NAGSF positions filled and working out of temporary facilities, it was possible to plan this week of surge operations, timely preparing the aircraft and successfully conducting the three consecutive intelligence and surveillance flights, each lasting eight hours.
"To fly three missions in three days we needed two aircraft ready every day for each mission; two days before take-off our maintainers tops them off, conduct the necessary pre-flight inspections to check the mechanic and avionics systems and simulate cockpit connection with special ground-test equipment," says Support Wing Commander, Spanish Air Force Colonel Juan-Carlos Raimundo Martinez.