Teams led by three major manufacturers have been selected by NATO to study a replacement for its current surveillance capabilities. 

The three were awarded “risk reduction and feasibility studies" by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency to study the Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC). 

The three candidates are ASPAARO, a consortium led by Airbus Defence and Space, ABILITI led by Boeing, and General Atomics with several subcontractors. 

 “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,” said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. “The focus is on a cross-domain fully distributed system to create the most reliable, resilient and capable solution for NATO’s future surveillance and control.” 

The AFCS approach may include a combination of manned and unmanned air, ground, maritime, and space systems that could work together and share information. 

The assessment studies will explore technical solutions to meet the future requirements of NATO and replace the aging Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, whose service life is set to end around 2035 after 50 years of service.  

The current NATO AWACS fleet is composed of 14 Boeing E-3A Sentry aircraft based in NATO Air Base (NAB) Geilenkirchen, Germany. According to NATO, “three E-3As in overlapping orbits can provide complete coverage of Central Europe,” with a range of 520 kilometers or 280 nautical miles for medium-altitude targets. 

Each contractor has been awarded a €15.5 million ($17.2 million) contract to develop their proposal.