Meridian Star

December 4, 2013

5 drones being built for NATO

The Associated Press
Associated Press

MOSS POINT, Miss. — Northrup Grumman Corp. has started work on five drones to be delivered to NATO.

Jim Edge, with NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency, and other leaders were on hand Tuesday at Northrop's Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point for the start of production on the first drone.

The Mississippi Press reports (http://bit.ly/18B0lRr ) that Edge told the gathering that there is "a crying need" for the capabilities that will be provided by the five unmanned aircraft.

"The NATO forces are counting on our success," Edge told attendees that included Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Col. Giancarlo Filippo, who is with the Italian delegation to NATO.

"Operations in Libya and Afghanistan and those over the waters off the coast of eastern Africa all prove that there's a crying need for this type of capability," Edge said. "We need this capability. Mississippi is making history as far as I'm concerned."

In May 2012, Northrop secured a $1.7 billion contract to build five of the unmanned aircraft for NATO.

The aircraft are modeled after Northrop's Block 40 Global Hawk drones and come equipped with an advanced ground surveillance radar sensor.

The Moss Point center will build fuselages for the aircraft.

Fifteen nations — Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States — are paying for the system, but all 28 alliance nations will support the program long-term.

"I'm going to make sure that we continue to move forward in the area of unmanned vehicles," Bryant said. "Mississippi must be positioned ... to take a leading role in that economy. Make no mistake, unmanned systems are the future, not only when it comes to military applications ... but for a host of commercial applications as well."

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Information from: The Mississippi Press, http://www.gulflive.com