NATO officials have cleared a key hurdle in a long-delayed process to buy five Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 unmanned air systems.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen provided no details of the arrangements in a 3 February press conference, but confirmed members "have found the way ahead on a practical funding solution" for the alliance ground surveillance (AGS) programme.
Funding and operational details have delayed a contract signing since October 2010, even as three of the original 15 AGS programme members - Canada, Denmark and Poland - have withdrawn from the programme.
Northrop officials have previously said Poland may rejoin the AGS partnership, but Rasmussen provided no details on the current members.
© Northrop Grumman
NATO's AGS fleet will comprise five radar-equipped Global Hawk Block 40s
Some NATO members have been seeking the AGS capability for about 20 years. The concept would allow a consortium of alliance members to contribute funding to operate the RQ-4s, with all allowed some level of access to the intelligence data gathered.
Northrop has proposed the RQ-4 Block 40, which includes a Northrop/Raytheon multiplatform radar technology insertion programme sensor that detects moving targets on the ground.
Once fielded, the system will perform a similar role as the US Air Force's Northrop E-8C joint surveillance target attack radar system aircraft, although the RQ-4's sensor is not as large or powerful.