NATO states in ground surveillance project told technology release could be jeopardised if EU lifts arms ban

The USA has warned NATO member states participating in the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme that the lifting of the European Union arms embargo on China could influence decisions on technology release for the multi-billion dollar project.

The warning was delivered at a special briefing for NATO government and defence officials in Washington earlier this month – just days before the EU announced it was delaying a decision on the lifting of the China embargo.

The briefing was organised by the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency at the request of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Support (AGS3) office. Delegates included senior officials on the NATO AGS steering committee.

The bulk of US concerns on technology release for the project relate to the Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle and the Transatlantic Cooperative Radar (TCAR), which will form the primary sensor carried by AGS platforms. The AGS project proposes acquisition of up to five Airbus A321s and seven RQ-4Bs equipped with the TCAR radar to provide a mixed surveillance fleet. An initial operational capability is planned from 2010.

The AGS programme is moving towards the funded design and development phase to be awarded by NATO to a new joint venture company that will be formed by the Transatlantic Industrial Solution (TIPS) consortium later this year.

Current US policy means all US industrial participants in the project will be required to pursue and negotiate separate technology-release agreement to work with the TIPS joint venture as well as potential European subcontractors spread across 23 nations. The requirements raise the potential for new delays to the project, on top of a 12-month programme slowdown to enable additional risk and cost analysis studies to be carried out before the design and development phase contract is signed.

Overall AGS programme progress will be considered this week by the NATO Council of National Armaments Directors in Brussels. The agenda is again expected to include discussion on technology-release arrangements, as well as project funding issues, overall schedule, basing arrangements, and transition of the AGS3 staff office into a formal NATO agency.


Source: Flight International