MOSS POINT, Miss., Dec. 4 (UPI) -- NATO's first Global Hawk unmanned surveillance vehicle is starting to take shape on a Northrop Grumman production line, the company reports.
The NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Block 40 Global Hawk has a cruise speed of 357 miles per hour, a range of 8,700 miles, a service ceiling of 60,000 feet and a flight endurance of more than 30 hours.
Once operational with NATO it will provide near real-time terrestrial and maritime situational awareness information throughout the full range of NATO military and civil-military missions.
NATO has ordered five of the aircraft, which will feature enhancements to meet the alliance's requirements for performing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, Northrop said.
"The variety of sensors and ability to support a wide range of missions will revolutionize how NATO collects ISR," said Jim Edge, general manager of NATO's Air, Ground Surveillance Management Agency. "It was an honor to witness the start of production for the first NATO aircraft, and I'm excited at being one step closer to delivering the AGS system."
Production was kicked off with a ceremony at Northrop's facility in Mississippi, which was attended by representatives of the alliance, state government officials, community leaders and Northrop employees.
"Mississippi excels at advanced manufacturing, and the sophisticated aircraft that will be built at Northrop Grumman's Moss Point facility are a testament to the quality of the area's workforce," Gov. Phil Bryant said at the event. "Our state is also building a strong presence in the aerospace industry, and this operation will certainly bolster our reputation."
The NATO AGS system will be equipped with the multi-mode, Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion airborne ground surveillance radar sensor to provide all-weather, day or night intelligence. The system a suite of network-centric enabled line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight long-range, wide-band data links.
It also features European-sourced ground assets to provide in-theater support to commanders of deployed forces. Mobile ground stations, for interface between the AGS core system and a wide range of interoperable NATO and national command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems are also part of the system.
"With the ability to fly up to 60,000 feet and for more than 30 hours, the NATO AGS system is uniquely suited to support NATO missions worldwide," said Jim Culmo, vice president, High-Altitude, Long Endurance Enterprise, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
Northrop said NATO is acquiring the system with 15 nations participating in the program. They are: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States.
Companies participating in the project with Northrop include Cassidian, Selex ES, Kongsberg and defense companies from participating countries.
Details of the production/delivery schedule for the first and subsequent Global Hawks was not disclosed.