ASTOR variant could offer NATO cheaper solution two years ahead of 2010 deadline

Raytheon is teaming with BAE Systems to offer a variant of the Bombardier Global Express-based Airborne Stand-off Radar System (ASTOR) for NATO's Airborne Ground Surveillance (AGS) requirement. The proposal is a competitor to the Northrop Grumman, EADS and Galilieo Avionica Transatlantic Industrial Proposed Solution (TIPS)on an Airbus A320 platform.

The Co-operative Transatlantic AGS System (CTAS) would leverage off the development and investment in ASTOR in order to offer NATO a cheaper solution two years ahead of the current 2010 entry into service deadline.

"We have talked to a lot of European defence ministries and they favour a smaller aircraft that is more cost-effective and fits NATO's command and control needs," says Dr Richard Anderson, Raytheon Integrated Airborne Systems vice-president. Other prospective European partners are in talks with Raytheon that could overlap with the TIPS team, he adds.

Raytheon recently briefed NATO on its proposal in a move to forestall what many had considered would be a sole source award to the TIPS partnership. The UK has said it is willing to make available to NATO its ASTOR design, for which aerodynamic development is complete. The first system is due to enter service in 2005. For Raytheon, AGS could provide programme continuity after the final RAF aircraft is delivered in 2008. "The long pole in the tent is the radar," says Anderson.

The main difference from the UK system would the incorporation of the proposed new Transatlantic Co-operative Advanced Radar (TCAR) in place of ASTOR's Raytheon active array. TCAR would meld the Northrop Grumman/Raytheon Multi Platform-Radar Technology Insertion Programme (MP-RTIP), now in development for the USAF's E-10A Multi-sensor Command and Control Aircraft, and the Stand-off Surveillance and Target Acquisition Radar (SOSTAR) demonstrator system being pursued by EADS, Fokker Space, Galileo, Indra and Thales.

The final work split between European and US industry is still being negotiated, but due to the sensitivity of MP-RTIP technology transfer, it is likely to entail local development of the TCAR's transmit/receive modules, say sources. Different-sized versions of the TCAR antenna would be the basis of the CTAS and the competing TIPS proposals.

The teams are expecting the award of NATO study contracts later this year, leading to a downselect and contract award by late 2004.

Source: Flight International