NORTHROP GRUMMAN and the main Airbus Industrie partners have ruled out the Airbus A340-200 as the basis for a NATO Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) in favour of the Boeing 707.

The US company says, that a study team including British Aerospace, Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) and Aerospatiale concluded that an A340-based JSTARS would be over $2 billion more expensive than a Boeing 707-based airframe.

Northrop Grumman is pushing JSTARS to meet a NATO requirement for such a system. The organisation has set up what Northrop Grumman describes as "an embryonic project office in Brussels".

An industrial working group has been set up by Northrop Grumman for the NATO requirement, and includes Computing Devices Canada; Alcatel ISR and Matra Cap System; Daimler-Benz Aerospace Elektroniksystem und Logistik; Alenia; Fokker; British Aerospace; Computing Devices (UK); and Motorola.

The study concludes that a re-engined 707 remains the most cost-attractive solution, with secondhand airframes available for as little as $5 million an airframe, and refurbishment costing around $25 million. "The cost is unbeatable," says Northrop Grumman.

Total cost of the NATO programme for 18 JSTARS aircraft would amount to $4.7 billion.

Northrop Grumman says that the CFM International CFM-56 remains the preferred choice for a re-engine aircraft. Its aim is to secure a start for the programme in 1998, requiring funding for the project to be committed in 1996.

Given the pressure, under which the NATO infrastructure fund is operating, a JSTARS purchase would need to be funded separately.

Northrop Grumman says that a "special funding programme" would be set up, with Germany taking 20%, the UK 16% and France 14% of the project. Other NATO states would provide finance, along similar lines to that of the Boeing E-3 airborne early-warning fleet.

Source: Flight International