Airbus and Northrop Grumman are set to collaborate with seven other companies to create the Atlantic Strategic Partnership for Advanced All-domain Resilient Operations (ASPAARO). 

The companies are BAE Systems, KONGSBERG, MDA, GMV, Exence and IBM. The seventh firm was not named in the Airbus press release

According to the release, AASPAARO will bid to participate in the Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC) program, conducting risk reduction and feasibility studies on surveillance and control systems. 

AFSC was launched in 2016. The program aims to study and develop NATO surveillance capabilities, primarily to replace the ageing fleet of AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft.

The current NATO AWACS fleet is almost half a century old, and is rapidly approaching retirement age. The fleet will need to be replaced by 2035, and NATO is looking at various options for its successor, including a combination of air, ground, maritime, and space systems that could work together and share information.

The approach NATO takes is the fabled ‘system of systems’, a collection of structures that can perform their own tasks, but also pool resources to achieve a mutual goal. Development of such systems has been considered the holy grail in many fields, most prominently the development of the next generation of semi-autonomous combat drones. 

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The goal of the AFSC program is to find and research options for these systems. This means that the feasibility studies ASPAARO hopes to participate in will determine what NATO’s AWACS capability will look like for the foreseeable future