by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance welcoming ceremony at Sigonella Air base in Italy
Generals. Excellencies. Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning to all of you. It’s great to see all of you here today.
Thank you all for joining us here to celebrate the arrival of the first Alliance Ground Surveillance drones.
I would like to thank Italy, our host nation for your great support. Thank you also to the commanders at Sigonella Air Base, and to all those who have made this possible.
NATO is the most successful Alliance in history because it has been able to change as the world changes. And a key part of our adaptation is our ability to develop new capabilities. These new unarmed surveillance aircraft are part of that adaptation. Of course, unmanned aerial vehicles have been used by Allies for many years. But this system is special for several reasons.
First, it provides us with the ability to see more. One single drone can watch over a territory with the comparable size of Poland. Providing our commanders with a comprehensive picture of conditions on the ground, in any weather. Enabling them to identify threats and see over the horizon. Detecting ground movement, maritime traffic, and even potential improvised explosive devices.
Second, it can travel a long distance. The system can fly for over 30 hours enabling it to cover the whole euro-Atlantic area and beyond. So it can reach the High North and the Sahel. The Middle East and the Atlantic. Thanks to its long endurance, when all the drones are operational, we will be able to monitor and help protect two large regions around the clock.
Third, it is operated by all Allies. Up until now, only one Ally had this cutting edge capability. Now all 29 Allies are working together to operate the drones. To analyse the data they provide. And to fuse this with information provided from other sources giving us a fuller picture to inform our decisions and to support our forces.
I have just met some excellent pilots, technicians and data analysts from many different Allied nations who will deliver this important effort. Some six hundred men and women from across the Alliance will soon operate the system. They are our newest force: NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force! It has taken time and effort to deliver the system. But this has helped us develop our aircraft certification process, with the outstanding support of the Italian defence ministry. It has also helped us to improve the way we manage procurement and maintenance.
So today, NATO is filling an important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability gap.
I would like to congratulate the NATO AGS Management Organization and the NATO AGS Management Agency for the successful delivery of this important milestone.
I look forward to the completion of the testing and performance verification of the first two aircraft, which are already here in Sigonella. Initial Operational Capability is expected in the coming months. This is when the force starts conducting operational flights.
And we also look forward to the arrival of the other three drones in the course of this year.
So ladies and gentlemen,
Our shared security depends on the best equipment and the latest technologies.
On capable individuals, committed to common principles, acting together.
Before you, you see a combination of all that.
It is a visible demonstration that NATO is adaptable, innovative and a united Alliance.
So congratulations to all of you.