JUST IN: European Command, NATO Investing in New Global Hawks

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Global Hawk Block 40

Photo: NATO

U.S. European Command is eyeing new unmanned aviation platforms as it — along with its NATO allies — face a growing threat from Russia, EUCOM's leader said  Dec. 10.

“When we talk about speed and effectiveness and resources and all the things that we have to do to effectively deter in NATO, I am always looking for [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] assets that allow me to see with clarity in the battlespace, that allow me to quickly get a return on the view and be able to take action,” said Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters.

Wolters — who also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander of Europe — said the command and alliance are looking at several interoperable platforms that can be used by all 29 NATO nations, but is particularly focused on obtaining the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Global Hawk Block 40 system.

“That will increase our ability to better surveil in Europe and better defend and better deter,” he said during a breakfast meeting with reporters hosted by the Project for Media and National Security at George Washington University. The system is “a classic example in the ISR realm of something that is NATO interoperable, that allows you to better see the battlespace that is also connected to the entities on the ground.”

NATO will start with a set of five Block 40 Global Hawks, with the first to be delivered “very soon,” he added.

A group of 15 alliance members are acquiring the systems, which include the remotely piloted aircraft and associated European-sourced ground command-and-control stations. The alliance will operate and maintain them on behalf of all NATO allies. The system is based on the U.S. Air Force’s Block 40 Global Hawk and has been modified to fit NATO requirements. Initial operational capability is expected in the first half of 2020, according to the alliance.

NATO's recently approved military strategy called for the organization to comprehensively improve its indications and warnings intelligence capability in all geographical quadrants, Wolters said.

The command has done some “very elegant maneuvering with respect to resources to make sure that our indications and warnings in the Baltics are as strong as they can possibly be,” Wolters added. It has also improved its ability to do the same in the vicinity of the Black Sea and has moved some unmanned assets to Romania, he said.

“That's been very, very effective,” he said. “The ISR improvements in the vicinity of the Black Sea had been notable and they will continue.”

Additionally, “there's an Aegis Ashore in Romania and that gives us better eyes on the environment to make sure that we can adequately deter and defend,” he said.

However, in general, there are still some areas within the air domain from an indications and warnings standpoint where improvements are needed, Wolters said.

“That goes back to what I'll call ‘elegant ISR’ assets that improve our indications and warnings and that allows us to better see the battlespace so that we can better defend at a quicker pace,” he said. “In the traditional air domain, a couple of additional ISR assets [of all altitudes] would be a benefit."

Wolters defines “elegant ISR” platforms as those that are harder to see, can operate in challenging environments and are faster and more precise than legacy systems, he said.

Topics: Robotics, Robotics and Autonomous Systems

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