Joint venture seeks key to NATO radar RFP

Farnborough Air Show » 2006
November 14, 2006, 12:40 PM

AGS Industries, a recently formed joint-venture company headquartered in Ottobrunn, Germany, is working on a response to a formal request for proposal for the design and development of NATO’s alliance ground surveillance (AGS) system.

The basis of the AGS system is a battlefield surveillance radar carried by a manned aircraft–the Airbus A321–and an unmanned aircraft–Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk. The radar has yet to be defined. The transatlantic cooperative AGS radar (TCAR) is the stated choice, but has yet to be developed. The TCAR will employ an antenna developed in Europe, with a back-end developed in the U.S.

AGS Industries is comprised of six manufacturers–Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics Canada, Indra, Thales, Galileo Avionica and EADS–each holding a one-sixth share. The new company is headed by Northrop Grumman vice president Larry Harrell. The AGS team is also reportedly looking at other radar proposals such as Northrop Grumman’s own multipurpose radar technology insertion program and the SOSTAR-X, an all-European radar currently undergoing flight trials mounted beneath a modified Fokker 100. The work from these two programs also feeds into the TCAR sensor.

Under the current proposal, whichever sensor is chosen will be carried by four A321s and five Global Hawks. The mix of manned and unmanned platforms provides great operational flexibility.

The manned A321 can carry a large and powerful radar for high-resolution wide-area surveillance, and provides a battle management function–very useful in rapid-reaction scenarios when ground command centers are not immediately available. It can carry up to 16 operators. The unmanned Global Hawk provides long-endurance patrol and can be used in areas where a low-key presence is required.

The two platforms can also work well together. For instance, a typical scenario might involve an A321 being used for wide-area surveillance while directing Global Hawks on specific surveillance tasks in the “hen and chicks” concept. As well as battlefield tasks, the AGS is also applicable to homeland security operations, and in humanitarian/disaster relief efforts.

The deadline for submission of the AGS proposal is November 2, and an announcement is expected at NATO’s Riga summit to be held shortly thereafter. A formal contract would then be expected early next year.

The request for proposal covers a 31-month program and is worth almost $1 billion. The NATO funding has been secured, although individual member-state contributions have yet to be defined. Once the design and development work is complete in mid-2009, the program will move to the engineering, manufacturing and development phase, which is expected to last until mid-2014. Production is scheduled to begin at the start of 2012, leading to an initial operational capability at the end of the year, with full operational capability expected in the second half of 2016. The total cost of the AGS contract, including D&D, is in the region of €3.3 billion.  

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