The UK is on the threshold of choosing an Airborne Stand off Radar System (ASTOR), the culmination of a procurement process that began with initial studies almost 20 years ago.

The five-aircraft ASTOR programme is under assessment by senior service chiefs and is scheduled to be passed to the Equipment Acquisition Committee by around 5 February.

The committee is likely to assess the project for around three weeks, and ministers will make their decision in mid-March. The UK plan is to have the battlefield surveillance system in service with the Royal Air Force by 2005.

Three systems remain under consideration: the Team Wizard radar based on a Gulfstream V platform, offered by Northrop Grumman teamed with British Aerospace; a system from Lockheed Martin and Racal, also mounted on a Gulfstream V; and a radar loosely based on the ASARS 2 in a Bombardier Global Express offered by Raytheon, along with Marconi Electronic Systems.

Northrop Grumman's return to the competition has been a significant move in the recent course of the contest and follows US Government pressure on the UK to become a partner in the JointSTARS Radar Technology Improvement Programme.

Source: Flight International