SIGONELLA, Italy – Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană and a group of NATO ambassadors visited the Alliance's fleet of unmanned surveillance aircraft stationed in Sicily, on Thursday (16 September 2021).
This is a state of the art capability that enables us to monitor wide areas from the sky, providing a comprehensive picture of conditions on the ground at any time
Addressing senior officers at Sigonella air base, the Deputy Secretary General thanked Italy for hosting the Alliance's Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft: "This is the essence of the Alliance - a state-of-the-art capability that functions to the benefit of all Allies," Mr. Geoană said. He praised the sophistication of the capability noting that it enables the Alliance to monitor wide areas, providing a comprehensive picture of conditions on the ground at any time.
The Deputy Secretary General thanked the NATO personnel, praising their skills and dedication to keep all Allies safe.
Arrival of the high-level delegation of NATO Ambassadors led by Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Alliance Ground Surveillance Force Main Operating Base at Sigonella Sicily. Photo by Manfred Reudenbach.
The Alliance Ground Surveillance Force Commander, Brigadier General Houston Cantwell (centre) briefing the NATO Ambassadors led by Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană.
Photo by Christian Traeger.
NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană
and the Alliance Ground Surveillance Force Commander, Brigadier General Houston Cantwell exchanging gifts in front of a AGS RQ-4D Phoenix unmanned aircraft. Photo by Christian Traeger.
Around 375 personnel, five unmanned surveillance aircraft and associated ground equipment make up the AGS programme. Using advanced radars, AGS enables NATO to perform persistent surveillance over wide areas from high-altitude long-endurance aircraft. All Allies have access to the intelligence generated by AGS.
At the base, the Commander, Brigadier General Houston Cantwell, briefed Mr. Geoană on the AGS mission and capabilities. "NATO AGS Force is grateful to receive Deputy Secretary General Geoană and the representatives of our Allies to demonstrate how we are working together to further build up this premier state-of-the-art capability of our Alliance in the field of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance," said the General.
We are proud to provide to NATO an advanced cutting-edge capability enabling our collective mission of providing security for all our populations
"We have come a long way from establishing the Force and preparing and training our staff thanks to the sending Allied nations. We received the first RQ-4D Phoenix aircraft at the end of 2019 and – subsequently – the remaining four aircraft, the ground control and processing and exploitation systems thanks to NATO AGS Management Agency and US and European contractors," General Cantwell said. "We are seeing how our infrastructure is literally rising out of the ground here at Sigonella thanks to our Italian hosts. This whole process has been a complex endeavour and we are proud to provide to NATO an advanced cutting-edge capability enabling our collective mission of providing security for all our populations," General Cantwell added.