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Airbus, Northrop Grumman partner on NATO AWACS replacement study

NATO is looking to replace its 14 remaining E-3A AWACS aircraft in 2035, with different combinations of systems in the air, land, sea, space, and cyber capabilities being considered. (US Air Force)

Airbus and Northrop Grumman are to lead an industrial partnership seeking to undertake studies into developing a future replacement for NATO's Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

Announced on 8 November, the Atlantic Strategic Partnership for Advanced All-domain Resilient Operations (ASPAARO) partnership also includes BAE Systems, Exence, GMV, IBM, Kongsberg, Lockheed Martin, and MDA. ASPAARO will bid to undertake the risk reduction and feasibility studies (RRFS) for the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) as part of the Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC) programme.

β€œThe feasibility studies are a key milestone in the AFSC programme, which aims to support NATO and NATO nations as they consider the Alliance's future tactical surveillance, command-and-control (C2) capabilities after the current AWACS fleet reaches the end of its service life in 2035,” Airbus Defence and Space said in its announcement of the ASPAARO partnership.

The AFSC concept stage study was first initiated in 2017 to redefine how NATO will conduct surveillance and C2 after the AWACS reach the end of their service life, with long-term plans and acquisition of new capabilities potentially including different combinations of systems in the air, land, sea, space, and cyber domains.

The results of the RRFS are expected to guide collective, multinational, and national capability development efforts by allied member nations, based on potential capability gaps to be identified after the completion of the studies. The AFSC concept phase is set to run through to 2022, at which time a decision will be made on how best to proceed with a potential procurement programme.

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