LONDON Aug 20 U.S. defence company Northrop
Grumman Corp is in talks about selling its high-altitude
surveillance drones in Europe, with Britain, Germany and Norway
seen as the likeliest customers, a top executive said on
Northrop developed the original Global Hawk unmanned
aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and it has been used extensively
over Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The company has subsequently
sought to sell versions of the Hawk to other countries.
"At the moment I would say that the hottest three (potential
European buyers) are Germany, UK and Norway, in the sense that
we've got active dialogue going on with those countries,"
Northrop's UK and European chief executive Andrew Tyler told
reporters on Wednesday.
The aircraft, which is not armed, is designed to travel at
60,000 feet, high above the airspace used by commercial planes,
and can fly non-stop for about 32 hours, gathering images and
related information about conflict zones or natural disasters.
A $1.7 billion contract the company signed with NATO for a
five-drone surveillance and intelligence system in 2012 will
help boost European sales, believes Tyler, as potential new
customers will get a taste of the aircraft's capabilities.
Germany is already familiar with it. Northrop remains in
long-running talks with the country about a stalled 1.2 billion
euro ($1.6 billion) purchase of four Euro Hawks, which Northrop
developed with Europe's Airbus based on the Global Hawk
"Our discussions with them (the Germans) continue ... we
definitely remain hopeful," Tyler said.
Northrop also threw its hat into the ring as a contender to
help fulfil Britain's need for new maritime patrol capability by
providing the country with its un-manned aircraft.
Since scrapping its former programme - the delayed and
over-budget BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 - as part of its
defence review in 2010, experts say Britain has struggled, for
example, to carry out aerial hunts for submarines and they
expect the country to fire the starting gun on a maritime patrol
aircraft competition in the coming years.
Tyler said that the Triton maritime aircraft, also a part of
the Global Hawk family, could work alongside an order for manned
aircraft to patrol British seas, adding that due to the drone's
lower fuel costs, a mixed fleet would be cheaper than going for
a manned-only solution.
Australia earlier this year opted to protect its maritime
interests that way, supplementing its purchase of eight Boeing
P-8A Poseidon planes with a number of MQ-4C Tritons.
($1 = 0.7529 euros)
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)