NATO Cuts Airbus from Surveillance System
The proposed Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system for NATO was scaled back when program officials quietly dropped plans to convert four Airbus A321 airliners after deeming it too expensive. NATO also cancelled development of the Transatlantic Cooperative AGS Radar (TCAR), which would have been the main airborne sensor for the AGS. Critics have long questioned the affordability of the AGS plan, which has been under consideration for more than 10 years. NATO has established a new, lower-cost ceiling of $3.3 billion for the system and delayed the operational date until 2013. The airborne element will now comprise only Global Hawk high-altitude UAVs, carrying the new MP-RTIP (multi-platform radar technology insertion program) sensor, which is being developed in the U.S. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for both Global Hawk and MP-RTIP. A company spokesman agreed that NATO had now adopted an “off-the-shelf, U.S. solution,” but he noted that European industry would still be partners in the development of ground stations for AGS. Northrop Grumman expects to receive a sole-source RFP from NATO early next year and secure a development contract by the end of next year. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force is considering how to mesh the NATO requirement into its own production program for the MP-RTIP sensor and the Block 40 Global Hawk.