Northrop Grumman (Stand S5-310) is preparing to deliver the first RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV-based Alliance Ground Surveillance system to NATO by the end of 2017, which will be followed in quick succession by the other four examples.
The first high-altitude, long-endurance UAV rolled out of the company’s Palmdale, California, facility in June 2015, and delivery to the UAV’s base at Sigonella air base in Sicily was originally expected some 12 months later.
However, implementation of the ground infrastructure became the priority, and subsequently Northrop concentrated on manufacturing the five airframes − all of which are now built − while the basing was further developed.
Andrew Tyler, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Europe, said that all five are completely developed and flight trials are underway.
‘‘We’re looking at the whole capability, not just the aeroplanes,’’ Tyler said. He added that ‘‘introducing the capability into the NATO communications network is not a small undertaking’’, and achieving the military type certification for AGS has taken longer than originally anticipated.
NATO AGS will be unique in that it will have both mobile and fixed infrastructure – provided by Airbus Defence & Space and Leonardo − which will lead to the alliance proving new concepts of operations for the type, Tyler added.
The ferry flights will take place one at a time, but will happen in quick succession. ‘‘Northrop Grumman intends to complete delivery in 2018 in support of the NATO AGS initial operational capability in December 2018,’’ said Tyler.