Germany's defence ministry has decided to buy high-altitude MQ-4C Triton unmanned surveillance planes built by U.S. weapons maker Northrop Grumman Corp for deliveries after 2025, ministry sources said on Tuesday.
The new drones will replace the Euro Hawk programme, which Berlin cancelled in May 2013 after it became clear that it could cost up to 600 million euros to get the system approved for use in civil airspace.
The sources confirmed a story originally reported by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
The plan, which must still be approved by parliament, calls for Germany to buy the new aircraft from the U.S. Navy, which awarded Northrop a contract to design the unmanned aircraft in April 2008. Sensors for the new aircraft are to be built by Airbus, as planned under the previous programme, the sources said.
It was not immediately clear how many planes the ministry would buy, or at what cost. Under the cancelled programme, it had planned to buy five Euro Hawk aircraft for 1.2 billion euros.
Experts do not expect to run into any problems winning aviation approval for the new aircraft, which is launched from land and is programmed to fly autonomously as high as 60,000 feet to gather a wide array of intelligence data. (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR’S NOTE: If the Triton purchase described above goes through, its net effect will be to take away €600 million of business from Airbus, and instead give Northrop Grumman a much larger slice of German MoD to supply Tritons.
Given that Germany’s territorial waters, its Exclusive Economic Zone and its maritime approaches are all patrolled by its NATO allies, and that NATO itself is purchasing broadly similar Global Hawk drones as part of the Alliance Ground Surveillance program, it is hard to see a military rationale for this decision.)