Contract award for the NATO alliance ground surveillance (AGS) system is now on track to be completed in early November, Northrop Grumman has said.

Negotiations for six Northrop RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft systems have dragged on for a year past the original deadline of October 2010. Meanwhile, the partnership has been disrupted by defections, with Poland, Denmark and Canada each announcing their withdrawal from the programme.

Each time a member withdraws, the remaining partners must contribute more funding but those issues have been overcome in the negotiations, Northrop said. Poland has also reportedly expressed interest in rejoining the AGS programme, Northrop added.

NATO AGS UAV - Northrop Grumman

 © Northrop Grumman

The final negotiations are focused on resolving issues with extending the intelligence information gathered by the AGS product to France, a member of the NATO partnership buying the RQ-4 Block 40s, Northrop said.

The AGS programme has been in development for nearly two decades. NATO originally considered a proposal by Northrop in the early 1990s to operate the Boeing 707-based E-8C joint surveillance target attack radar system. That concept evolved into a mixed fleet, including a manned Airbus A321 and unmanned RQ-4s. The last strategy was dropped to a fleet of eight RQ-4s, reduced to six after Northrop submitted its costs last year.

The AGS system function is to introduce the capability for NATO to detect moving targets on the ground at long range using radar. The RQ-4 Block 40 is equipped with the Northrop/Raytheon multi-platform radar technology insertion programme sensor.

Source: Flight International