We have already seen NATO manned aircraft conducting surveillance missions in Finland near the Russian border, but this is the first time we have seen a drone perform this type of mission.
The NATO Northrop Grumman RQ-4D (registration MM-AV-SA0018 – call sign MAGMA10) took off from Sigonella AB and is currently conducting a surveillance mission near Helsinki, where it can monitor the entire St. Petersburg region (and beyond).
The RQ-4D is a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Northrop Grumman. It is based on the US Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk, but has been modified to meet NATO requirements.
The RQ-4D is equipped with a variety of sensors, including a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) camera, and a signals intelligence (SIGINT) payload. This allows it to collect a wide range of intelligence, including imagery, radar data, and electronic signals.
The RQ-4D has a maximum range of 11,000 nautical miles (12,600 miles) and can stay in the air for up to 30 hours. This makes it ideal for conducting long-range surveillance missions.
The deployment of the RQ-4D in Finland is a significant escalation of NATO’s military presence in the region. It is a clear signal to Russia that NATO is committed to defending its members, including Finland.