Germany’s Federal Ministry of Defense (MoD) as a cost-cutting measure will not buy four production models of the RQ-4E Euro Hawk unmanned aircraft system as planned. The MoD’s decision to stop the program after acquiring one demonstrator aircraft was disclosed earlier this week. During a parliamentary debate, Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said of the decision: “We prefer to pull the plug. … Better an end with horror than a horror without end.”
Euro Hawk is a signals intelligence (Sigint) version of Northrop Grumman’s high-altitude, long-endurance Global Hawk. In January 2007, the MoD awarded a $559 million contract to Eurohawk, a joint venture of Northrop Grumman and EADS Cassidian to develop, test and support the Sigint version. Northrop Grumman flew the first demonstrator aircraft to Germany in July 2011. Based on the success of flight testing and military certification, the German air force planned to buy four more Euro Hawks for delivery between 2015 and 2017.
The MoD, which is implementing a range of cuts, was to spend another €500 million ($645 million) on the Euro Hawk program. On May 15, defense ministry state secretary Stéphane Beemelmans told members of a parliamentary defense committee that the decision to stop the program “is based on previous test results of the prototype Euro Hawk full-scale demonstrator,” according to an MoD account.
Northrop Grumman did not immediately comment on the decision. In emailed remarks, EADS Cassidian CEO Bernhard Gerwert defended his company’s role in the program as the Sigint system developer. “The mission system developed by Cassidian in Germany is the currently most advanced of its kind. The first flight tests have demonstrated the superior performance of the system,” he said. Gerwert added that the mission system could also be integrated with other platforms. “The development and therefore the investments made at Cassidian can thus be used in total to close the capability gap of the armed forces at signals intelligence,” he said.
Referring to reported concerns that certifying the Euro Hawk to fly in European airspace is cost prohibitive, Gerwert said future procurements would benefit from “full access” to a system’s technology and data. “Only when certification standards are taken into account during the development of a flight system can future lengthy and costly post-certification be avoided,” he said.