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NATO AGS – NOTIONAL, NATIONAL OR NATO?

15 Jun 05. ‘Could do better’ would be the comment applied not only to the venue of the Press Conference for TIPS at the Paris Air Show but also for nthe content of the presentation which gave journalists little comfort that the peoject had any hope of being delivered on time and on budget, if at all. One source said that the big conundrum was technology. Is AGS purely a technology play to give Europe vital radar technology thru the SOSTAR project from the US. The Team told BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold that they believe that the ITAR’s will be in place to enable the vital MP-RTIP to be transferred. But will the US give away such crown jewels to a French company, Thales who could easily sell against Northrop and Raytheon in the world markets. Importantly as a questioner asked, has Thales got the technology to provide the active array modules it so desperately needs to upgrade its Rafale radar to compete with Raytheon’s radar on the F-15E.

AGS is the largest procurement made by NATO ever, some €4bn and €350m for the radar development. Thus it was surprising that the TIPS Team was chosen instead of the Raytheon Team that offered a huge reported saving of some $1.75bn for a system based on the GX jet and the SOSTAR radar. Raytgheon told BATTLESPACE that they did not even receive a de-brief on the project. It is likely that TIPS was chosen because the manned aircraft solution provided by the Team was more in-line with current thinking and provided a possibility for Airbus to militarise the A320 airframe which could then migrate to compete for US programmes should the Boeing 767 line close. In addition the Raytheon offering had less European content and more US, UK and Canadian, given the UK ASTOR contract. Raytheon argued that their experience on ASTOR had enabled the company to de-risk the programme.

Risk is certainly a main factor in the AGS program and it appeared that the current structure of the newly named Transatlantic Integrated partnership Surveillance Ltd carries a lot of risk. Although TIPS Ltd is being formed there was no indication of the shareholder structure or whether indeed this was linked to workshare. The MoU is expected in late 05.

The main worry apart from lack of confirmation that the 23 nations had agreed the budget, which appears unlikely in the current climate, was the timeframe. TIPS has to produce a solution for an ISD by 2010 that would comprise of 1 orbit for 30 days with two manned and three unmanned, based on the Global Hawk RQ4-B. Given that the average time taken to develop, build and test anew radar is ten years and not one bolt has even been procured, TIPS has an uphill struggle in this area alone. In addition the A320 has yet to be militarised and once holes are cut in new airframes as Raytheon found with the GX, all sports of changes occur to handling and performance. The whole fleet proposed is 5 manned and 7 unmanned system.

The speakers welcomed the announcement that TIPS industries have received a NATO contract in excess of EUR 20m to move the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme forward. The award came during the Conference of National Armament Directors meeting. The contract will address issues such as interoperability, NATO airborne early warning and control harmonisation and potential cost-saving measures in parallel to the programme’s upcoming design and development (D&D) phase. Thus the Risk Reduction Programme is just beginning in a process which must produce a workable solution by 2010?

We were told that 100 companies are involved on a non-competing process for procurement, it is being worked on the workshare agreement. Managing these numbers causes a huge logistical headaches as EADS has found wit the A380.
“They must progress form a project that is being treated as a scientific exercise to one which produces a system,” a source told BATTLESPACE.

As we left the conference, there were a lot of questions to be asked whether the project would ever succ

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