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New remotely operated aircraft RQ-4D Global Hawk arrives in Italy for NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force


According to information released by the NATO website, on July 26, 2020, the fourth remotely piloted aircraft of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) Force RQ-4D dubbed Global Hawk arrived at the Italian Air Force Base in Sigonella, Italy. The aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California, USA, at 18:33 local time on July 25 and landed at Sigonella at 16:20 local time the following day, almost 22 hours later.

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New remotely operated aircraft RQ 4D Global Hawk arrives in Italy for NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force 925 001 The fourth RQ-4D Phoenix remotely piloted aircraft of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force pulled on the tarmac of the Force's Main Operating Base at the Italian Air Force Base in Sigonella, Italy. Photo by Falk Plankenhorn (Picture source NATO)


The arrival of the fourth aircraft represents another successful step for NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force. Less than two weeks after the landing of the third RQ-4D remotely piloted aircraft, also called “Phoenix”, the NATO AGS Force’s fleet of five total aircraft is near completion.

This latest crossing of the Atlantic from California to Italy was entirely controlled by industry pilots at the Alliance Ground Surveillance Force’s Main Operating Base in Sigonella, in the same manner as the first three ferry flights. Following arrival, the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency and the Italian Airworthiness Authorities will finalize the required documentation and hand-over the system to the Force as soon as possible.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, remotely-piloted, surveillance aircraft. It was initially designed by Ryan Aeronautical, now part of Northrop Grumman. The RQ-4 provides a broad overview and systematic surveillance using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and long-range electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2) of terrain a day, an area the size of South Korea or Iceland.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is the premier provider of persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information. Able to fly at high altitudes for greater than 30 hours, Global Hawk is designed to gather near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather – day or night. Beyond intelligence collection a portion of the Global Hawk fleet is engaged in supporting air and ground users with communications relay support. The EQ-4B Global Hawk carries the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload providing life-saving support to warfighters.

Global Hawk has amassed more than 250,000 flight hours with missions flown in support of military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa, and the greater Asia-Pacific region. The system provides an affordable and flexible platform for multiple sensor payloads to be used together, delivering mission-critical information to various users around the world.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk has a maximum takeoff weight of 14,628 kg and a payload of 7,847 kg. It can fly at a maximum speed of 357 mph (650 km/h) with a maximum range of 12,300 miles (19,800 km) and an endurance of more than 34 hours.