Germany has been weighing options for a signals intelligence aircraft since the Eurohawk program was scrapped. (Northrop Grumman)
BONN, GERMANY — The German military is considering four variants for a new signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft to replace the scrapped Eurohawk UAV project. The Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support has come up with manned and unmanned solutions.
“These options include an unmanned version in the MALE [medium-altitude, long-endurance] UAV class, a carrier the size of a business jet, a short-range passenger aircraft to carry the ISIS [Integrated Signal Intelligence System] and an existing complete solution without the ISIS system,” a Defense Ministry spokesman said. “The chief of staff will decide by the end of the quarter which option comes into question.”
The new ISIS SIGINT system had been developed by Airbus, formerly EADS, for the Eurohawk high-altitude, long-endurance UAV.
The German Air Force already operates two Airbus 319CJ corporate jetliners and four bombardier Global 5000 business jets in its VIP squadron, and uses the Heron MALE UAV for reconnaissance in Afghanistan.
Germany’s old SIGINT planes, based on the Breuget Atlantique airframe, were retired in 2010. Originally, they were supposed to be replaced by four Eurohawks, which were built by Northrop Grumman in cooperation with EADS and are based on the Global Hawk UAV.
However, the project was scrapped in May, about two years after the prototype had been delivered. Reasons for this decision were massive problems in the licensing for the European airspace and a possible explosion of costs. So far up to a €600 million ($812.75 million) had been spent on the project. ■