Important Nato military and political decision-makers are to visit Northrop Grumman's E-8 JSTARS aircraft at Farnborough this week as the battle to provide Britain and Nato with an airborne ground surveillance capability reaches a crucial phase.

The company's JSTARS aircraft dominates the western end of the Farnborough static park and its Boeing 707 airframe is casting a shadow over the British and allied contests for battlefield surveillance systems.

Northrop Grumman has offered Nato ten of its JSTARS for $3.4 billion, in a package that includes 36 ground system modules to allow the aircraft's real-time radar images to be distributed to key command posts. The proposal would allow Nato to form a multinational unit to operate the aircraft.

Nato's acquisition committee is expected to reach a decision in November to take forward its surveillance requirement.

The Nato process is running side by side with the UK Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) programme and MoD budget cutters are considering combining the two requirements, in favour of participation in the alliance effort.



Northrop-Grumman and the US Government are keen to stress the advantages of the latter approach but they have also provided information on the JSTARS direct to the UK under the ASTOR bid process for a possible national buy.

"JSTARS is the best for the alliance if all the countries share the cost and do not duplicate the costs," says Brig Gen Ber Reiter, JSTARS programme executive director.

"The US government has already spent in excess of $4 billion in research and development money to produce the JSTARS," says Alex Zakreski, Northrop Grumman vice-president for business development and battle management systems. "It makes sense to take advantage of this available operational technology."

Gen Reiter stresses that JSTARS offers capabilities beyond those of its competitors, which he characterises as essentially "intelligence gathering systems".

"We do more than that. We can provide real-time surveillance, and then target assets to attack them. We do real battlefield management," he says.

"Through air-to-air refuelling we can provide the ground commander with 24-hour-a-day surveillance."

Reiter is keen to stress the availability of the system.

"We have the only system that is operational to meet an urgent requirement."



Source: Flight Daily News