By Peter La Franchi at  Farnborough air show

NATO has given the green light for a reduction in the proposed number of Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicles in the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) fleet to four from an original plan by prime contractor AGS Industries for five long-endurance UAVs.

AGS has also been given approval to limit the proposed development of the new TCAR ground surveillance radar to a single version that will be carried by the four Airbus A321s planned for AGS. The variant that was to have been developed for carriage by the Global Hawk will be replaced by the same Northrop/Raytheon MP-RTIP radar planned to equip US Air Force Block 40 Global Hawks.

AGS managing director Larry Harrell says the changes to the fleet and sensor mix reflect efforts to "eliminate non-essential capabilities" from the programme to allow it to come in at a target price of €3.3 billion ($4.1 billion).

AGS is required to present its final costed response to the current restricted NATO tender process by early November. However, the consortium is aiming to achieve this by late October to enable consideration of the project by the NATO Council of National Armaments Directors at its 26 October meeting. This would allow for a contract signature at the time of the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, in November.

The scrapping of the Global Hawk version of TCAR is expected to result in cost savings to the AGS project of around €500 million, says Harrell.

Source: Flight International