US manufacturer seeks closer alliance with EADS, which in turn is looking for support selling into US defence market

Northrop Grumman is making NATO's acquisition of an airborne ground surveillance (AGS) system the cornerstone of a much wider range of industrial co-operation projects with Europe and in particular EADS, as the company mounts a final push to promote the programme ahead of an expected decision at the alliance's summit next month in Prague.

The US company is keen to cement a closer alliance with EADS, which in turn is looking for support selling into the North American defence market. "We would certainly like to have that relationship," says Northrop Grumman chief executive Kent Kresa. "If we get AGS going that will spawn a lot of other things."

Previously identified areas of potential co-operation include unmanned air vehicles, electronics and shipbuilding. EADS is unable to compete in the USA as a defence prime contractor, and having been recently rebuffed by Lockheed Martin, it is looking for a local partner to support efforts to sell Airbus A330 tankers and A320 maritime patrol aircraft to the Pentagon. "We've had some dialogue on tankers, but they have come to no conclusion," says Kresa.

Northrop Grumman, teamed with EADS and Galileo Avionica, is looking to November's NATO meeting for an AGS go-ahead, arguing that otherwise it risks missing the 2010 in-service date. The message has been reinforced by Kresa this month during a European tour to rally support for AGS.

"We've certainly received a very positive reception and this is very high up on [NATO secretary general] Lord Robinson's priority we hope to have AGS resolved at the Prague meeting," says Kresa. The Transatlantic Industrial Proposal revolves around six A320-sized platforms equipped with a radar, drawing on the US Multi Platform-Radar Technology Insertion Programme and European Stand-off Surveillance and Target Acquisition Radar demonstrator.

Northrop Grumman is also keen to promote the RQ-4A Global Hawk, to meet a German requirement for an electronic intelligence gathering replacement of the Dassault Atlantic and longer term as a NATO AGS adjunct. The company has also been promoting the RQ-8A Firescout UAV to EADS partner nations Spain and Germany.

Source: Flight International