BRUSSELS - NATO is to buy five US-made unmanned drone aircraft capable of countering Afghan insurgents, hunting pirates off Somalia or monitoring arms embargoes, an alliance official said on Wednesday.
The drones are part of the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) project, scheduled to begin operating between 2015 and 2017. The project reflects NATO efforts to cooperate more closely with its member states on defense costs and capabilities at a time of financial constraints.
NATO has said last year's Libya conflict exposed shortcomings in the alliance's surveillance ability.
Thirteen allies - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States - will participate in the procurement of the unmanned drones and other equipment such as deployable ground stations that will support AGS.
NATO members gave their approval to the project this month, after two decades of wrangling over how to share funding.