America has upped the stakes in the battle to supply Nato with Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft by offering a 74% offset deal to European industry participating in the $3billion project.

Northrop Grumman executives said at Paris yesterday that the US Government's new offer involved six aircraft and 24 ground stations, radar improvements and high technology industrial participation by a core of ten companies from six Nato countries.

The US would also provide up-front funding for the research and development on new enhanced, inverse and swathe synthetic aperture radar features required by Nato, while alliance countries bring their funding on-line.



Nato is scheduled to decide in November on the US proposal but the selection of JSTARS is meeting opposition in some European capitals, where rival national programmes are favoured.

Jon Campbell, the company's Nato JSTARS programme manager, says the 'fast track' offer involves the delivery of two aircraft off the USAF production run direct to Nato beginning in late 2000.

The third 'deliberate track' aircraft would be delivered in 2003 to full upgraded configuration and then the first two aircraft would be upgraded to the new standard.

The core working group of alliance companies involved in the plan to refurbish Boeing 707 airframes, install, test and commission equipment, includes Alenia, Alcatel, Daimler Benz Aerospace, British Aerospace, Fokker Aviation, Matra Cap Systems, Motorola, ESG, Computing Devices Canada and Computing Devices.



The industrial participation is split on a 'national cost share equals national work share' basis. Company sources confirms that the new offer is based on the use of Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3Bs.

US President Bill Clinton, who visited the USAF JSTARS unit supporting Nato in Bosnia, is strongly backing the project, declaring it a 'key transatlantic co-operative initiative'.

US government officials recently began a tour of all Nato capitals to drum up support for the programme.

In Italy, Luxembourg and Norway they received a 'positive' welcome and they will be in Turkey today.

In spite of high-level US political backing, it is far from clear if Nato will back the programme, given its cost, but Bob Lockhart, the Pentagon's manager of international cooperative programmes, says: "We still have a long time to go."

Source: Flight Daily News