Daily Breeze

September 24, 2003

Raytheon gathers team for NATO bid

The company hopes its international proposal will help overcome trans-Atlantic tension over cost, complexity.


WASHINGTON — Raytheon officials said Tuesday they were assembling an experienced international team of aerospace firms for a bid on a NATO airborne surveillance system contract that could exceed $3.5 billion.

Officials from Raytheon’s El Segundo-based Space and Airborne Systems expressed confidence that their proposal for the Alliance Ground Surveillance system will be selected when NATO decides between competing approaches in February.

“We have the lowest cost solution, we have the lowest risk platform,” and have the only program that can meet NATO’s goal of an operational system by 2010, said Peter Wray, a business development director from El Segundo.

The proposal would produce an integrated system of aircraft, sensors, communications gear and ground control stations that can conduct ground reconnaissance missions in almost any weather. It would resemble the Air Force’s Joint STARS system, which helped to locate Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles for allied air attacks in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and again in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Raytheon-led proposal would use a large Canadian-built business jet for the primary airborne platform but will include an alternative that could use unmanned aerial vehicles produced by two San Diego-based firms.

Although they are willing to work with any UAV, Wray said, the Raytheon team has been studying the newest models of the Predator drones, developed by General Atomics Aeronautics Systems, and the Global Hawk, designed by Northrop Grumman’s Ryan Aeronautic Systems, both in San Diego. Raytheon produces sensors and ground control stations for both of those UAVs.

Despite the confidence expressed by the officials at a news briefing, the Raytheon team’s proposal faces numerous obstacles.

A key hurdle is the competing bid by a team led by Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., considered the favorite of several major NATO members.

The main obstacle, however, could be NATO’s difficulty in committing to a complex and expensive program that has stirred a considerable amount of trans-Atlantic tension. NATO has debated the need for an airborne surveillance system at least since Joint STARS demonstrated its worth in the first Gulf war. The United States tried to get the alliance to adopt its proven system, but ran into stiff opposition from European allies anxious to protect their aerospace industries.

Raytheon is attempting to counter that by assembling a team heavy with European firms.

Although NATO has set a schedule for concept submissions in November and a preliminary contract award in February, there is no guarantee enough alliance members will commit funds to support the program.

Wray said the Raytheon team believes its proposal is superior because the aircraft it would use, Bombardier Aerospace’s Global Express, has better range, operating altitude and standoff range, which helps protect it from air defenses. The Canadian-built aircraft is being used in a Raytheon-led program for a similar ground surveillance system for Great Britain and has been tested with the types of external antenna the AGS planes will need.

The Raytheon officials also emphasized their extensive experience in producing the sensors and control systems the NATO surveillance program requires.

The AGS system would use radar and other sensors to spot vehicles moving on the ground. The information would be relayed by the five-person crew to ground stations, where, in a combat setting, technicians would combine it with other intelligence to designate targets for attacks. The system also could be used to counter smuggling or help in civil emergencies, Wray said.