AT LEAST FOUR separate bids are expected to be lodged at the UK Ministry of Defence to meet the Royal Air Force's UK Airborne Stand Off Radar (ASTOR) requirement.

Teams led by Raytheon E-Systems and Lockheed Martin have recently concluded MoD-funded project-definition studies and will submit costed proposals by the middle of this month. They are expected to be joined by a separate Lockheed Martin bid offering ex-USAir Force U-2s and an offering from a British Aerospace/Northrop Grumman team with a version of the USAF's Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS). Other proposals could be made, as the MoD recently invited other contractors with "proven, low-risk, solutions" to submit proposals by 16 September. Earlier this year the MoD said that it would consider long-range unmanned air vehicles for the requirement.

Raytheon E-Systems' bid contains a proposal to create a new UK-based company, headed by Raytheon Cossor boss Sir Kenneth MacDonald, to work on the ASTOR programme and a similar NATO battlefield surveillance and target-acquisition requirement. The Raytheon E-System consortium includes Hughes UK, with the dual-mode ASARS2 radar evolved from the system used in the U-2. GEC-Marconi and Thomson-CSF are also involved in the radar team. The platform is the Canadair Global Express long-range business jet, which will be supported by Shorts. Motorola is to supply the ground-station systems and Cubic Defense will supply the datalink technology.

Rival Lockheed Martin is offering a Racal Thorn Searchwater 2000-based radar, with Texas Instruments as a subcontractor, installed on a Gulfstream V. Lockheed Martin UK Government Systems will be responsible for systems integration, Marshall Aerospace will undertake aircraft modifications and GEC-Marconi the defensive-aids suite. Lockheed Martin will supply the datalink between the GV and the ground stations.

Lockheed has already submitted U-2 proposals to the MoD and is promoting the concept on its Farnborough stand. Previous offers of the aircraft have been rejected by the RAF. The BAe/Northrop Grumman JSTARS offering is aimed primarily at NATO, but it is thought likely that the team will offer the aircraft for the UK requirement - assuming that the ASTOR survives any MoD budget cuts.

Source: Flight International