Feb 6, 2012 by Stephen Trimble – Flight Global
Washington DC - NATO officials have cleared a key hurdle in a long-delayed process to buy five Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 unmanned air systems.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen provided no details of the arrangements in a 3 February press conference, but confirmed members "have found the way ahead on a practical funding solution" for the alliance ground surveillance (AGS) programme.
Funding and operational details have delayed a contract signing since October 2010, even as three of the original 15 AGS programme members - Canada, Denmark and Poland - have withdrawn from the programme.
Northrop officials have previously said Poland may rejoin the AGS partnership, but Rasmussen provided no details on the current members.
NATO's AGS fleet will comprise five radar-equipped Global Hawk Block 40s
Some NATO members have been seeking the AGS capability for about 20 years. The concept would allow a consortium of alliance members to contribute funding to operate the RQ-4s, with all allowed some level of access to the intelligence data gathered.
Northrop has proposed the RQ-4 Block 40, which includes a Northrop/Raytheon multiplatform radar technology insertion programme sensor that detects moving targets on the ground.
Once fielded, the system will perform a similar role as the US Air Force's Northrop E-8C joint surveillance target attack radar system aircraft, although the RQ-4's sensor is not as large or powerful.