NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS)

NATO plans to acquire an Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system that will give commanders a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground. NATO’s operation to protect civilians in Libya showed how important such a capability is. A group of Allies intends to acquire five unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the associated command and control base stations. NATO will then operate and maintain them on behalf of all 28 Allies.

The AGS system is expected to be acquired by 14 Allies (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States), and then will be made available to the Alliance in the 2015-2017 timeframe.  This key transatlantic procurement programme is in execution after the 14 acquisition nations signed the procurement contract at the Chicago Summit in May 2012.

The NATO-owned and -operated AGS core capability will enable the Alliance to perform persistent surveillance over wide areas from high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aerial platforms operating at considerable stand-off distances and in any weather or light condition. Using advanced radar sensors, these systems will continuously detect and track moving objects throughout observed areas and will provide radar imagery of areas of interest and stationary objects.

The main operating base for AGS will be located at Sigonella Air Base in Italy, which will serve a dual purpose as a NATO Joint Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (JISR) deployment base and data exploitation and training centre. 

Just as NATO’s Airborne Early Warning & Control (NAEW&C) aircraft – also known as AWACS – monitor Alliance airspace, AGS will be able to observe what is happening on the earth’s surface, providing situational awareness before, during and, if needed, after NATO operations.

AGS responds to one of the major capability commitments of the Lisbon Summit.

  • Components

    The AGS Core will be an integrated system consisting of an air segment, a ground segment and a support segment.

    The air segment consists of five Global Hawk Block 40 high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs. The UAVs will be equipped with a state-of-the-art, multi-platform radar technology insertion program (MP-RTIP) ground surveillance radar sensor, as well as an extensive suite of line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight, long-range, wideband data links. The air segment will also contain the UAV flight control stations.

    The ground segment will provide an interface between the AGS Core system and a wide range of command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C2ISR) systems to interconnect with and provide data to multiple deployed and non-deployed operational users, including reach-back facilities remote from the surveillance area.

    The ground segment component will consist of a number of ground stations in various configurations, such as mobile and transportable, which will provide data-link connectivity, data-processing and exploitation capabilities and interfaces for interoperability with C2ISR systems.

    The AGS Core support segment will include dedicated mission support facilities at the AGS main operating base (MOB) in Sigonella, Italy.

    Contributions-in-kind provided by France and the United Kingdom will complement the AGS with additional surveillance systems. 

    The composition of the AGS Core system and these contributions-in-kind will provide NATO with considerable flexibility in employing its ground surveillance capabilities.

    This will be supplemented by additional interoperable national airborne surveillance systems from NATO nations, tailored to the needs of a specific operation or mission conducted by the Alliance. 

  • Mechanisms

    The NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Organization (NAGSMO) is responsible for the acquisition of the AGS core capability on behalf of the 14 participating nations. The AGS Implementation Office (AGS IO) at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) is responsible for ensuring the successful operational integration and employment of the NATO AGS core capability.

    The NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA), representing the 14 AGS acquisition nations, has received the final AGS system proposal from the prime contractor and the contractual negotiation has been successfully finalised. The contractual arrangements are being evaluated and staffed by procurement nations. The contract award is expected at the Chicago Summit or shortly thereafter.  The industries of all 14 participating nations will contribute to the delivery of the AGS system.

    The engagement of NATO common funds for infrastructure, communications, operation and support will follow normal funding authorisation procedures applicable within the Alliance.

    By the time AGS becomes fully operational in 2017, France and the United Kingdom will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Strategic Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), outlining the modalities for making their contributions-in-kind available to the Alliance.

  • Supporting NATO’s core tasks

    The Lisbon Summit set out the vision of Allied heads of state and government for the evolution of NATO and the security of its member nations. This vision is based on three core tasks, which are detailed in the new Strategic Concept:

    • cooperative security
    • crisis management
    • collective defence

    AGS was recognised at Lisbon as a critical capability for the Alliance and is planned to be a major contributor to NATO’s Joint Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (JISR) ambition.

    AGS will contribute to these three core tasks through using its Swath & Spot Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and its Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) capabilities to collect information that will provide political and military decision makers with a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground. 

  • Evolution

    Originating from the Defence Planning Committee in 1992, the AGS programme was defined as a capability acquisition effort in 1995, when the NATO Defence Ministers agreed that “the Alliance should pursue work on a minimum essential NATO-owned and operated AGS core capability, supplemented by interoperable national assets”.

    The AGS programme was to provide NATO with a complete and integrated ground surveillance capability that would offer the Alliance and its nations unrestricted and unfiltered access to ground surveillance data in near-real-time and in an interoperable manner.  It was to include an air segment comprising airborne radar sensors and a ground segment comprising fixed, transportable and mobile ground stations for data exploitation and dissemination, all seamlessly interconnected linked through high-performance data links.

    From the outset, the AGS capability was expected to be based on one or more types of ground surveillance assets either already existing or in development in NATO nations, an approach that later also came to include proposed developmental systems based on US or European radars.  However, all those approaches failed to obtain sufficient support by the NATO nations to allow their realisation.  In 2001, the Reinforced North Atlantic Council (NAC(R)) decided to revitalise AGS through a developmental programme available to all NATO nations and a corresponding cooperative radar development effort called the Transatlantic Cooperative AGS Radar (TCAR).

    In 2004, NATO decided to move ahead with what was labelled as a mixed-fleet approach.  The air segment was to include Airbus A321 manned aircraft and Global Hawk Block 40 UAVs, both carrying versions of the TCAR radar, while the ground segment was to comprise an extensive set of fixed and deployable ground stations.
     
    Due to declining European defence budgets, NATO decided in 2007 to discontinue the mixed fleet approach and instead to move forward with a simplified AGS system where the air segment was based on the on the off-the-shelf Global Hawk Block 40 UAV and its associated multi-platform radar technology insertion program (MP-RTIP) sensor.  The ground segment, which would largely be developed and built by European and Canadian industry, remained virtually unchanged as its functional and operational characteristics were largely independent of the actual aircraft and sensor used.

    In February 2009, the NATO nations participating in the AGS programme started the process to sign the Programme Memorandum of Understanding (PMOU). This was a significant step forward on the road towards realising an urgently required, operationally essential capability for NATO.  NAGSMA was established in September 2009, after all participating nations had agreed on the PMOU. The PMOU serves as the basis for the procurement of this new NATO capability.

    Another important milestone for the AGS programme was the 2010 Lisbon Summit, where the strong operational need for a NATO owned and operated AGS capability was re-confirmed with NATO’s new Strategic Concept. AGS also featured in the Lisbon Package as one of the Alliance’s most pressing capability needs.

    On 3 February 2012, the North Atlantic Council (NAC) decided on a way ahead to collectively cover the costs for operating AGS for the benefit of the Alliance.  The decision to engage NATO common funding for infrastructure, satellite communications and operations and support paves the way for awarding the AGS acquisition contract by 14 Allies.  In addition, an agreement was reached to make the United Kingdom Sentinel system and the future French Heron TP system available as national contributions-in-kind, partly replacing financial contributions from those two Allies. 

  • Facts and Figures

    General characteristics of the Global Hawk Block 40 UAV:

    • Primary function: High-altitude, long-endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
    • Power Plant: Rolls Royce-North American AE 3007H turbofan
    • Thrust: 7,600 lbs 
    • Wingspan: 130.9 ft / 39.8 m
    • Length: 47.6 ft / 14.5 m
    • Height: 15.3 ft / 4.7 m
    • Weight: 14,950 lbs / 6,781 kg
    • Maximum takeoff weight: 32,250 lbs / 14,628 kg
    • Fuel Capacity: 17,300 lbs / 7,847 kg
    • Payload: 3,000 lbs / 1,360 kg
    • Speed: 310 knots / 357 mph / 575 kph
    • Range: 8,700 nautical miles / 10,112 miles / 16,113 km
    • Ceiling: 60,000 ft / 18,288 m