Canada has become the second country to withdraw from the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 alliance ground surveillance (AGS) program, but the remaining NATO partners are "very close" to signing a contract, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
The decision means AGS will lose another source of funding that must be compensated for by the 13 NATO members still committed.
In June, Canadian TV broadcaster CBC reported that Canada also is withdrawing from the NATO partnership operating the E-3 airborne warning and control system (AWACS).
© Northrop Grumman
The AGS program had lost another key partner last June. Denmark also decided to withdraw from the partnership acquiring a six-aircraft RQ-4 fleet in June 2010.
Meanwhile, Northrop and NATO officials are likely to sign a contract to launch the development phase of the AGS programme within several days. The contract award may still have to be approved by each of the national partners before it becomes official.
Previously, Northrop officials had predicted that the long-awaited contract award milestone might not be reached around October.
Northrop is offering to deliver six RQ-4 air vehicles configured with the US Air Force's Block 40 equipment, which includes a wide area surveillance sensor called the Northrop/Raytheon multi-platform radar technology insertion program. It will perform the same role as the USAF E-8C joint surveillance target attack radar system.
European partners, including EADS, will supply mobile ground control stations for the NATO RQ-4 fleet, which will be based at Sigonella AB, Sicily.