FLYING Magazine

A consortium of nine companies led by Airbus has been tapped by NATO to conduct one of three feasibility studies for the alliance’s future surveillance capabilities following the upcoming retirement of NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

NATO also awarded contracts for risk reduction and feasibility studies to be conducted by the ABILITI Consortium and General Atomics, it said Wednesday. 

NATO’s fleet of 14 Boeing E-3A AWACS “eyes in the sky” surveillance and control aircraft, which has operated since the 1980s, is set to retire in 2035. The aircraft features a distinctive radar dome mounted on the fuselage and conducts a range of missions, from air policing to evacuation operations and a spectrum of wartime missions.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February underscores NATO’s need for the capability, according to an Airbus official.

“The current crisis situation is a reminder that vigilance as well as surveillance and control capabilities are of key importance to the defence of the Alliance,” Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said in a statement. 

Each of the three contracts awarded by NATO is worth 15.5 million euros ($17,179,425) for the development and detail of a realistic technical concept, as well as analysis of its feasibility and risks for implementation.

“A wide team of NATO and national experts will further assess these three technical concepts to support the selection of a final technical concept,” NATO said in a statement. “This will guide collective, multinational and national capability development efforts by the Allies, based on potential capability gaps to be identified after the completion of the studies.”

The contract awards are a “significant step in the concept stage, bringing us very close to our final goal of taking key decisions on future surveillance and control capabilities,” Cagatay Soyer, NATO Support and Procurement Agency’s Alliance Future Surveillance and Control initiative program manager, said.

Airbus, along with subcontractors Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Exence, GMV, IBM, KONGSBERG, Lockheed Martin and MDA, announced in November they had aligned to establish Advanced All-domain Resilient Operations (ASPAARO) in order to address NATO’s future capability requirements.

“Over the next months, the ASPAARO team will perform a thorough assessment of a fully distributed surveillance model; refine details; assess related feasibility, risks and costs; and provide a recommended technical solution with proven technologies, open standards and interfaces for the multi-domain capabilities AFSC shall provide,” Airbus said.

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