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Germany to revive Euro Hawk drone project


German Luftwaffe 99-01 Northrop Grumman/Cassidian RQ-4B EuroHawk mock-up at ILA Berlin Air Show 2012. Photo: Courtesy Bin im Garten.

BERLIN (PTI): Germany will revive the controversial multi-million Euro Hawk drone project, which was scrapped last year, as part of a series of measures to boost the operational capability of its armed forces, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has said.

The armed forces, plagued by a shortage of aircraft and helicopters, and outdated military hardware, cannot fulfil Germany's obligations to the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) to the full extent, von der Leyen told a TV channel last night.

Germany can meet its short-term commitments to the NATO, but it cannot fulfil its long-term obligations, she said.

"After six months, there will be 42 Eurofighter aircraft in the air and not 60 as planned."

The minister said insufficient operational capability of the armed forces is the result of years of neglect. "We have neglected the basic operation" of the armed forces for years, she said.

The Euro Hawk programme will be taken up once again because aerial reconnaissance technology will be urgently needed in the future, von der Leyen said.

Euro Hawk's sophisticated reconnaissance system can be tested on board the drone or it can be transferred later to another platform.

von der Leyen's predecessor Thomas de Maiziere had scrapped the Euro Hawk project in May, last year, after investing around 650 million euros (USD 835 million) to build a prototype of the unmanned aircraft on the grounds that it will not get the flight permission in the EU as it lacked an on board "sense and avoid system" to avoid a collision.

The defence ministry said at that time it was not prepared to invest another 600 million euros (USD 780 million) to install the system without any guarantee that the drone, which is as large as a passenger plane, will get flight permission.

A "sense and avoid system" on board an aircraft is a prerequisite to obtain flight permission in the EU and in 190 members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

A panel appointed by the Defence Ministry to probe the problems facing the armed forces has recommended further testing the drone's reconnaissance systems.

The first prototype of Euro Hawk was built by the US aerospace company Northrop Grumman.

Equipped with an array of modern sensors and cameras and other systems on board, the pilotless aircraft was intended to give Germany more independent and efficient aerial reconnaissance capabilities.

Along with the scrapping of the project last year, the defence ministry also cancelled its order for four additional drones at a cost of 520 million euros (USD 675 million).

Tags:

Germany  Drone  Euro Hawk  

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