None of EADS' DaimlerChrysler collaborations has been more fruitful than that with US aerospace company Northrop Grumman.

Originating with an April 2000 Memorandum of Understanding between the US company and the German EADS founder DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa), the alliance has flourished. At last June's Paris air show, EADS and its US partner even shared a pavilion.

Underlying the collaboration is the understanding that neither company, by itself, could gain full access to certain areas of its home market without the other. Without its alliance with EADS, for example, Northrop Grumman might not be as well placed as it is to secure a role meeting the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) requirement for Europe's planned Rapid Reaction Force (RRF). EADS has made plain that it considers collaboration with well-established US companies to be crucial to its playing a bigger role in the USA - which will remain the world's largest aerospace market for the foreseeable future.

Tom Enders, head of EADS Defence and Civil Systems (DCS), says that both companies believe that new industrial and operational structures are necessary to meet "evolving security requirements". Also needed is the capability to match new technology to such requirements. "Our two companies will take a leadership role in bringing this vision to life," Enders says.

The key to the relationship's success has been a so-called building block approach. Rather than embarking upon a sweeping, multi-sector alliance, the emphasis has ben on identifying specific projects of clear mutual benefit. The initial MoU related to surveillance and reconnaissance projects and the first fruit, announced in June 2000, was an agreement to collaborate on the weather and navigation radar system for the European A400M military transport aircraft.

In October, EADS subsidiary Sogerma signed an agreement with Northrop Grumman to form a new joint company for the repair, maintenance and overhaul of Airbuses operating in North and South America. The new venture, EADS Aeroframe Services, based in Lake Charles, Louisiana, opened for business in May. EADS has a majority 81% stake while Northrop Grumman holds 19%.

During the last Paris show, the two companies announced two new joint radar projects: to develop an airborne ground surveillance system and a monopulse secondary surveillance radar for use in air traffic control.

The field of UAVs has proved to be particularly fertile for EADS-Northrop Grumman collaboration. One key result will be the Euro Hawk, a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV derived from Northrop Grumman's highly successful Global Hawk and incorporating an EADS sensor. The Euro Hawk's first major demonstration flight is planned for NATO exercises in Germany in the third quarter.

The events of 11 September may eventually contribute to the collaboration's long-term success. "Some people say the USA rediscovered the importance of having strong partners," Enders says. He believes there's "a good chance" transatlantic co-operation will even increase, provided that the major European governments stay on solid terms with the USA.

"This is a partnership whose dimensions will be set by practical successes," says Ralph Crosby, head of Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems Sector. "Right now, the prospects for success look very good."

Source: Flight International