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New risk mitigation studies planned for NATO AGS programme

The US Air Force is preparing to launch studies of potential linkages between NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance programme and its own rolling Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle acquisition as part of risk-mitigation efforts for the troubled transatlantic project.

NATO earlier this year elected to discard plans to base part of the AGS capability on a fleet of modified Airbus A321 airliners carrying Transatlantic Cooperative AGS Radar sensors and instead develop a fleet of up to eight Global Hawks carrying the Northrop/Raytheon Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program sensor.

The USAF announced on 19 November that it is planning new studies to define the NATO AGS "core capability resulting from a UAV-only based approach" and explore "interdependency between ongoing related USAF programme and NATO potential reuse technology candidates".

The process will also include preparation of an "interoperability approach", a concept of operations, and development of acquisition strategies for the USAF that "mitigate any impacts to the USAF RQ-4 Block 40 programme and lower the risk of the NATO AGS programme execution".

The USAF confirms that the A321 "manned aircraft was deleted from the programme in mid-2007 because of affordability issues and NATO is now pursuing an AGS solution based on Global Hawk with the MP-RTIP sensor". It says a two-phase acquisition approach is still planned, starting with a design, development and demonstration effort and subsequent full-scale production.

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