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Trans-Atlantic Team Sets Eyes On Surveillance

September 2002
By Robert K. Ackerman
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A multinational team gathers other allied firms to build an airborne radar.

The future may be at hand in the form of a multicontinental contractor team that combines existing technology to develop an advanced radar system. This industry group draws on expertise from companies located in all 19 NATO nations to produce a system that could finally realize a long-sought NATO airborne ground surveillance capability.

The goal is a functioning core capability for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system. The team shooting for this goal is headed by three companies, each from different nations, that are working on advanced radar systems that could be adapted for the NATO AGS requirement. The work of these three companies will be augmented by more than two dozen firms from the other 16 NATO nations, and they may be joined by other companies if more nations are admitted to NATO this fall.

The AGS system has been a NATO objective since the 1980s. Approved nine years ago, the concept has moved through several iterations, and the current version is based on a need recognized by the alliance’s Defense Capabilities Initiative for a NATO-owned and -operated airborne ground surveillance system. Last year, the reinforced North Atlantic Council (RNAC) established a timetable for implementing a core AGS function by 2010.

The team, collectively known as the Transatlantic Industrial Proposed Solution, or TIPS, has been formed to bid as a prime contractor for the system. TIPS would have responsibility for overall system design, program execution and delivery to the customer.

The leaders of TIPS—effectively the major subcontractors—are Northrop Grumman Corporation of the United States, EADS of Germany and Galileo Avionica S.p.A. of Italy. The other participating companies would be positioned at slightly lower levels under the major subcontractors.

The concept behind AGS is for NATO to have an alliance-owned and -operated core ground surveillance capability by 2010. This modular, scalable, open system architecture radar must be interoperable with various national assets of alliance members. These assets include the U.S. joint surveillance target attack radar system (JointSTARS) and Global Hawk, Italy’s complesso radar eliportato per la sorveglianga (CRESO), France’s helicoptre d’observation radar et d’investigation sur zone (Horizon), the United Kingdom’s airborne stand-off radar (ASTOR) and Germany’s proposed unmanned aerial vehicle.

The TIPS team already has presented NATO with a white paper that offers an AGS solution in full compliance with the RNAC mandate for the Defense Capabilities Initiative. The TIPS proposal is for a system that meets the minimum essential NATO requirements for an owned-and-operated core capability by 2010.

At the heart of this proposal are two basic approaches. One is to offer participation by companies from all 19 NATO member nations, and potentially more if the alliance enlarges. The other is to reuse existing technologies and capabilities from the long-extant AGS effort as well as from other existing systems.

For the radar, TIPS will focus on adapting technologies from the multiplatform radar technology insertion program (MP-RTIP) in the United States and the stand-off surveillance and target acquisition radar-experimental (SOSTAR-X) program in Europe. The TIPS team would combine the best of both radars to produce the AGS radar system.

Robert E. Zeiser, director of international customer requirements for AGS and battle management systems at Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Sector, Melbourne, Florida, says that this collaboratively developed radar is the heart of the TIPS AGS offer. He describes it as a “very achievable path.” Giovanni Oliveri of Galileo Avionica’s avionic systems business unit, Rome, Italy, explains that this approach offers the best cost benefits with the least risk. The industries involved in TIPS have considerable integration experience in this arena.

A team headed by Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the MP-RTIP program. This effort is developing a common, modular, scalable radar system capable of operating on both manned and unmanned surveillance platforms for both the United States and NATO. Its technology builds on that of the company’s JointSTARS targeting radar system, and a JointSTARS T-3 aircraft is slated to serve as a universal testbed for MP-RTIP.

The SOSTAR-X radar is being developed by a joint venture headquartered at Dornier GmbH, Friedrichshafen, Germany, which is a corporate unit of EADS. Other participants include Thales, FIAR, Fokker Space and Indra. The airborne ground reconnaissance radar is designed for battlefield surveillance and target acquisition. Employing active array antenna technology, SOSTAR-X is being tested on a Fokker 100 aircraft.

TIPS envisions the AGS radar as having both high-resolution spot and wide-area swath synthetic aperture radar (SAR). It would feature both inverse SAR and moving target indicator (MTI) modes, and it would be able to detect low-flying aircraft and missiles, rotating antennas and other targets. The SAR would be able to image moving targets, and it also will have a maritime mode to enable it to detect ships. The AGS mission profile would include full-spectrum coverage from border surveillance to peacekeeping operations.

Current guidelines for the system-of-systems architecture feature an AGS core surrounded by aircraft and groundstations. AGS aircraft would connect directly with other national systems that are interoperable, including space assets. These separate national assets would contribute target identification and support continuous tracking. The AGS system would feature dynamic cross-cueing and would generate a combined airborne ground picture for a recognizable surface picture.

The system’s interoperability, including the common air and ground segment aspects, would provide an increased degree of synergy among the different systems. Oliveri notes that the TIPS AGS would not rely on black boxes, and this will enhance technology exchange.

The core capability would be interoperable with the other national surveillance assets through the ground segment and the NATO secret wide area network (WAN). Communications links will include wideband satellite communications as well as connectivity with NATO airborne warning and control system (AWACS), ships and other platforms.

The TIPS plan calls for installing AGS aboard a conventional mid-size commercial aircraft platform such as an Airbus 321. This would provide sufficient power to operate the system as well as room for expansion should NATO seek to enhance AGS or add other capabilities.

By maximizing the opportunities for synergy between core and national assets, AGS could be acquired by individual nations for their own needs. Zeiser notes that AGS production could be continued—or even run concurrently—for any NATO member or ally that seeks to incorporate the system into its own national forces.

“We stand at a unique moment in time on NATO AGS,” Zeiser declares. “We have not had a moment like this in the 10 years that the nations have been deliberating.

“RNAC has given its opinion that it wants a NATO AGS core capability and wants it by 2010, and industry’s response is that the acquisition of a NATO-owned and -operated core capability is achievable by 2010—but you’ve got to speed up the film,” he warrants. “We cannot continue studying and deliberating. There is a narrow window of opportunity. Fortunately, all 19 have agreed.

“TIPS represents a trans-Atlantic consensus solution primed by this team. The TIPS approach is the best approach—and may well be the only approach—to get the capability by 2010,” Zeiser declares.

Oliveri explains that TIPS has built its program plan around the goal of providing the capability by 2010. Meeting this deadline, however, is contingent on NATO awarding a contract by 2003. Any delay past that timeframe, he warns, would push the first delivery past the 2010 deadline. The first step is to receive a request for proposal, and Oliveri hopes that the November NATO summit in Prague will lead to a commitment. Government-to-government agreements will be necessary for program definition in the acquisition phase.

TIPS officials held several meetings with the 19-nation AGS industry working group earlier this year. These meetings contributed to the formulation of the white paper proposal. After the presentation of the paper, TIPS officials met with the working group in May at the ILA Berlin air show. Alliance officials have declared that the TIPS proposal is compliant with all RNAC decisions and supports the NATO Defense Capability Initiative, Oliveri states.

If a contract is awarded in 2003, then TIPS can provide the first two AGS aircraft in 2010. Full-rate production of two AGS aircraft per year would begin in 2011.

“This is a critical period of time for NATO,” Zeiser continues. “It will require a somewhat streamlined acquisition approach, but one that we think is very achievable.”

Among the companies signing on to the TIPS program are Fokker of the Netherlands; Airbus and QinetiQ, United Kingdom; Kogun, Iceland; BARCO, Thales, BE S.A.B.C.A, SABCA, LIMBURG and SONACA, Belgium; EADS SD&E and EADS Airbus Industrie, France; CDC, MDA and Gallium, Canada; CASA (EADS), Airbus, Indra, INTA and RYMSA, Spain; Edosoft, EID, INETI, OGMA and UBI, Portugal; Kongsberg, Norway; Terma, Denmark; EADS ESG, Germany; Cargolux Euro-Composites, Luxembourg; PIT, PZL-Mielec, PZL-Warszawa and RADWAR, Poland; Aero Vodochody, Czech Republic; Danubian, Hungary; ESDAS, ASELSAN, Havelsan, Ayesas, TAI, Baris, Tubitak, Ibrahim Ors and Milsoft, Turkey; HAI, HCSA, Intracom, Miltech and Quest, Greece; Galileo Avionica/FIAR and Marconi Mobile, Italy; and Northrop Grumman, United States.

Oliveri notes that TIPS can add companies from new NATO members if the alliance, as expected, adds several new nations this fall. TIPS officials already have held discussions on increasing the pool of companies with NATO enlargement.

The lead subcontractors will focus on their own specialties. Northrop Grumman will be the prime systems integrator and will provide technology from the MP-RTIP. EADS, which also will contribute systems integration expertise, will concentrate on the ground segment and bring technology from SOSTAR-X. Galileo Avionica also will focus on the SOSTAR-X radar and systems integration.