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May 15 2023

NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force working towards becoming the Intelligence hub for the Alliance

SIGONELLA, Italy – On May 15, the Commander and Deputy Commander of Allied Air Command, US Air Force General James Hecker and Royal Air Force Air Marshal Johnny Stringer, visited NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force (NAGSF) at Sigonella Air Base Italy. industry. 

NAGSF is so much more than a unit that flies the advanced RQ-4D ... it is a critical ISR hub for the Alliance

“After a brief visit to the force last June, this trip was an opportunity to take a closer look at the work our outstanding team of NATO Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) experts deliver,” said General Hecker. “I highly commend the NAGSF team who ensure Alliance decision-makers have state-of-the-art ISR data at hand to enable our deterrence and defence mission,” he added. The visiting generals saw the new infrastructure and received operational updates of NATO’s organic ISR collection, processing and dissemination unit.

NAGSF Deputy Commander Col Stefano Bianca welcomes AIRCOM Commander Gen James Hecker to NAGSF main operating base at Sigonella, Italy. Photo by NAGSF/Dion Houston.
NAGSF's Col Marco Meyer (right) briefing Gen Hecker and the North Atlantic Council members during the visit. Photo by NAGSF/Dion Houston.
AIRCOM and NAGSF leaders with the members of NATO's North Atlantic Council in front of the NAGSF RQ-4D aircraft at Sigonella, Italy. Photo by NAGSF/Dion Houston.
NAGSF RQ-4D overhead."NAGSF is so much more than a unit that flies the advanced RQ-4D - it is a critical ISR hub for the Alliance," said General Hecker. Archive photo courtesy NAGSF.

Since 2020, the 420-strong NAGSF has operated NATO’s fleet of five RQ-4D Phoenix remotely piloted aircraft providing massive support to NATO’s ISR enterprise, especially focussing the effort to protecting territories and populations of the eastern Alliance members.  

“Since we started to fly our RQ-4D fleet, as well as exploiting and disseminating extremely valuable and time-critical ISR products for the Alliance. Our staff at Sigonella has drastically improved standing processes, tactics, techniques and procedures to better meet NATO’s expectations and requirements,” said Italian Air Force Colonel Stefano Bianca, NAGSF’s Deputy Commander. "Our specialists today exploit and fuse both our RQ-4D collection data and ISR material provided to us from many other sources to create comprehensive and extremely useful intelligence updates, which we make available across the Alliance,” Colonel Bianca added.

Later in the day, a group of Ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council visited the NAGSF Main Operating Base in the context of a Permanent Representatives trip to Italy organized by the Italian Delegation to NATO. General Hecker briefed the Ambassadors from 19 NATO members and the Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment, Ms Wendy Gilmour, while the Force presented mission and capability updates.

“As Ambassador from the hosting nation” said the Italian Permanent Representative, Ambassador Marco Peronaci, “I strongly wanted this trip to Sigonella, to show the importance of the program and its strategic relevance for the Alliance especially in today's international scenario. This visit to Italy is proving how important this Country is for Allied defence and the need to pay greater attention to our southern flank. Sigonella has clearly shown all this”, he added. “The impressive contribution that Sigonella delivers to the Alliance is a great step forward,” said ASG DI. “Thanks to NAGSF we are sharing ISR data with all our Allies to an extent that individual Nations could not facilitate,” she added.

“NAGSF is so much more than a unit that flies the advanced RQ-4D. It is a critical ISR hub for the Alliance, where our experts daily receive, exploit, and fuse ISR data and distribute products providing first-rate support to NATO and national decision makers,” concluded General Hecker, whose staff at Allied Air Command at Ramstein, Germany, oversees the operations of the NAGSF on behalf of the Supreme Allied Commander Operations.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

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