NATO Signs Initial $26M Contract for AGS ‘Eye in the Sky’
NATO said it would sign a EUR 20 million ($26 million) contract on Thursday with a transatlantic consortium led by the Melbourne, FL operations of Northrop Grumman and by Europe’s EADS. The consortium beat out a competing group led by Raytheon for the design phase of an “eye in the sky” called the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) System. AGS would be a European version of Northrop Grumman’s E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-STARS), but based on an Airbus A321 airframe. In addition to Northrop-Grumman and EADS, the winning Trans-Atlantic Industrial Proposed Solution (TIPS) team included General Dynamics Canada, French defense firm Thales, Spain’s Indra and Italy’s Galileo Avionica.
The initial award proves that the nearly two dozen member nations could agree on funding for the program. NATO is due to decide by early 2006 whether the alliance will go ahead with the full EUR 4 billion ($5.2 billion) program.
The full AGS would include a mixed fleet of both manned and unmanned aircraft, as well as supporting ground stations. The manned portion would initially call for 5 Airbus A321 aircraft hosting the TCAR radar, while the unmanned portion would consist of 7 Northrop-Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with MP-RTIP (Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program) radars now being tested in the USA.
The Transatlantic Cooperative AGS Radar (TCAR) development program aims to create is a high-performance, side-looking, wide area multi-mode ground surveillance sensor developed under agreement between France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States.
Northrop-Grumman officials note that its $250 million E-8C J-STARS, based on the Boeing 707 airframe but with ground-searching radar integrated into its belly, also began as a 5-6 plane order in 1985. The company recently delivered its 17th and final E-8 J-STARS aircraft, which has performed well in both Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Northrop Grumman, which employs about 2,000 people around Melbourne and Daytona Beach, said it plans to shift 25 workers to the AGS program in 2005 and could add 100 engineering positions on the contract in 2006-2007. The jobs would pay an average of $75,000 a year.
Eye on AGS: Updates
NATO’s subsequent decision to proceed with the program meets the NATO requirement for the AGS core capability, which will be a core component for the NATO Response Force. The TIPS-AGS mixed-fleet solution will also support a variety of new mission requirements for NATO including nation building, homeland security and humanitarian relief. Initial AGS Operating Capability is scheduled for 2010-2011, while Full Operational Capability is scheduled for 2012-2014.
AGS Industries’ October 2006 proposal response confirms a EUR 3.3 billion procurement cost ceiling for a NATO AGS core capability, and now places the programme start as an agenda item for action at the upcoming Conference of National Armament Directors (CNAD) meeting at the end of October. The new cost ceiling is achieved by limiting the number of Global Hawk UAVs to 4 (from 7), limiting the number of ground stations, and additional system-wide reductions.
Additional Readings, Sources & Updates
- Alliance Ground Surveillance The consortium has their own site.
- GlobalSecurity.org – E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS / JSTARS)
- AGS Industries GmbH (Oct 16/06) – AGS Industries Submits NATO AGS Proposal for Design and Development Phase
- eDefense Online (Feb 22/06) – The Eyes of Europe. Subtitled “NATO’s AGS: Europe’s most important military program.” Regrettably, eDefense Online has folded and its archives with it; this article was not archived in Google or the Wayback Machine.
- DID (Oct 27/05) – NATO TIPS-AGS “Eye In the Sky” Consortium Submits Initial Risk Reduction Study
- FloridaToday.com (April 29/05) – Northrop takes first step toward NATO spy plane
- Reuters – NATO Signs Initial ‘Eye in the Sky’ Contract