OSLO, (BM) – When the new NATO spy drones take to the wing, the alliance and its 29 members will have a unique opportunity to get an idea of what is happening in the territories adjacent to NATO.
“They will fly over NATO territory. But they will be able to record what is happening far beyond the borders of our neighboring country. We can figure out what the situation is,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg VG.
Two drone, which is a newer version of the American drone Global Hawk, is currently being tested on the Italian island of Sicily.
Will be ready for 2022
In the course of the year, three more drones will be delivered to Italy. In total, NATO bought five vehicles. It is assumed that in 2022, after numerous tests, a new NATO ground surveillance system will begin to function.
Drones will be able to fly for 30 hours without refueling. From an altitude of 18 kilometers, their radars and sensors will transmit clear images of what is happening on earth. Pilots will remain down in Sicily and work in shifts from four to six hours. A drone from Sigonella’s base in Sicily can reach Finnmark in just a few hours, observing territories within a radius of 200 kilometers from a height. On the return trip, he will leave only after 10-15 hours.
According to NATO head Jens Stoltenberg, these drones give NATO a unique advantage. Neither Russia nor China has airplanes that would operate at such a height.
Will be able to watch the Crimea
“The United States is the only country that has something similar,” Stoltenberg told VG. “If we had such opportunities in 2014, when Russia used military force against Ukraine and annexed Crimea, we would be able to get much more accurate information about what is happening there. There is always a lot of confusion and uncertainty during crises. In such cases, it is very important to have reliable data on what is happening,” he says.
The NATO command apparatus has long been waiting for this moment: a formal decision on the acquisition of drones was made in 2012. Then it was assumed that they will be in the air from 2017, but as it turned out, it was too optimistic, and it would take five years more.
Norway and 14 other NATO countries jointly spent on purchases of about 13 billion kroons (about 91 billion rubles – approx. Transl.), But it is NATO that will take over the drones themselves. The Norwegian defense industry has also contributed: Kongsberg has provided huge databases. All images from drones will be sent to the archive, so that later they can be compared with more recent photographs and find differences. For this analysis, NATO will use artificial intelligence to receive intelligence data at high speed.
“Unlike satellite photographs, images from radars and sensors are independent of weather and darkness. Another unique feature is that all 29 NATO countries will have access to them shortly after shooting,” said US Brigadier General Phil Stewart.
Priority areas for the operation of drones will be determined by the NATO command apparatus. By default, it is assumed that they will fly only over their own NATO territory, unless all members of the alliance agree otherwise.
Five drones will be able to continuously monitor two areas at the same time, alternately replacing each other and going to Sigonella for refueling.
Stoltenberg says they will also be made available to civilians in the event of natural disasters: “We are prepared for NATO to be contacted for help in natural disasters. An earthquake recently occurred in Albania. Drones can deliver information about how the situation is developing and where refugees are heading, ”he said.
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Source: Alf Bjarne Johnsen / Inosmi