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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

29 May 13. Germany is sticking with a plan to buy 16 combat drones, an official said Wednesday, despite a controversy embroiling its defense minister over a scrapped surveillance drone project. Thomas de Maiziere has drawn fire for two weeks over the abandoned “Euro Hawk” project, putting pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government four months ahead of elections. The Euro Hawk project had already swallowed €508m (US $657m) before the defense ministry said on May 14 it would “pull the rip-cord” on the plan to buy four more of the unmanned surveillance aircraft. Germany feared aviation authorities would not certify the Euro Hawk — a version of US-based Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk re-modeled by Europe’s EADS — because it lacks an anti-collision system. De Maiziere, a close Merkel ally who has been attacked for failing to act far earlier, is due on June 5 to present a report on what the German media has dubbed the “drone debacle.” Despite the controversy, Berlin is sticking with its objective of buying up to 16 armed drones by 2016, defense ministry spokesman Stefan Paris told a regular press briefing Wednesday. Germany has held talks with Israel to buy the Heron TO unmanned aerial vehicle, and with the United States to buy the Reaper, formerly called the Predator, made by General Atomics. Paris, who was speaking after the cabinet had replied to an opposition information request on the matter, said no final decision would be taken before the Sept. 22 election. But he reiterated that under a plan from 2011, “the intention is that we acquire 16 such devices in future and that the armed forces have them at their disposal from 2016, three years from now.” (Source: Defense News)

28 May 13. Germany did not need to cancel the Euro Hawk reconnaissance drone project because it could have continued flying with preliminary aviation approval, a senior source at the European aerospace group EADS told Reuters on Tuesday. Germany earlier this month scrapped plans to purchase the Euro Hawk drones, made by EADS and Northrop Grumman, because of the cost of meeting standards required to win aviation approval. Its armed forces have one prototype Euro Hawk and were considering whether to purchase an additional four drones. The source said EADS could not understand how the ministry came to estimate that meeting the standards required to win aviation approval would cost 500-600m euros. EADS did not expect any problems getting aviation approval for its Global Hawk drones for NATO, the source added. (Source: Reuters)

27 May 13. Northrop and EADS in rescue call for Euro Hawk. The companies behind the Euro Hawk reconnaissance drones said that they hoped the German government would reconsider its decision to scrap its order for the aircraft over costs. The German armed forces have one prototype Euro Hawk, which are built by Northrop Grumman and EADS, and are considering buying four more. But the government in Berlin said this month that it would not go ahead with the deal because winning airworthiness certification for the drone would cost more than €500m. It said it would not spend more on the programme than the €250m already allocated. The decision to scrap the deal still leaves the German military with the question of how to replace the older Breguet Atlantic spy plane, which is being retired. Euro Hawk, which is designed to collect enemy communications and radar signals, is a modified version of the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft used by the US Air Force. EADS, which teamed up with Northrop in 2000, provides the sensor payload. Northrop on Monday said that it and EADS remained “fully committed” to the Euro Hawk programme and the “critical capabilities the system would provide the
German armed forces and its allies”. It said the aircraft had “performed flawlessly and safely” throughout its flight test programme. Reports of problems with its flight control system and excessive costs related to completing its airworthiness certification we

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