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NATO Agrees to Fund Surveillance Operation Using Northrop Drones

NATO broke a 19-year logjam and agreed to jointly fund operations of an airborne ground-surveillance system including five Northrop Grumman Corp. Global Hawk drones.

The 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization approved a plan this week for all members to pay for support and operations, according to a statement today on the alliance’s website.

The project has been a NATO priority for President Barack Obama and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Thirteen member nations, including Germany, Italy and Romania, agreed to buy the system in 2009 after years of discussion. Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop is the prime contractor.

Panetta has said he considers the project an example of what NATO calls “smart defense,” in which the allies pool resources to upgrade capabilities and fill gaps. He urged his counterparts in NATO during meetings this week in Brussels to expand such pooling and sharing arrangements as they seek more efficient ways to ensure security amid defense budget cuts.

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