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23 octobre 2015 5 23 /10 /octobre /2015 07:50
photo Richard Seymour Thales UK

photo Richard Seymour Thales UK


October 23, 2015: Strategy Page


In October 2015 Britain finally overcame opposition by civil aviation bureaucrats and was allowed to fly military UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in Britain. Just once. As a test. This was a major breakthrough because such restrictions in Europe have severely limited development and use of military UAVs. For example the British military has been developing Watchkeeper UAV since 2006 but has not been able to use it in Britain. This aircraft is based on the Israeli Hermes and is a 450 kg (992 pound) aircraft with a payload of 150 kg. It can also carry Hellfire missiles for support of troops in Afghanistan. This UAV is already designed to carry two extra fuel tanks under its wings. Each of these fuel tanks weighs more than the 50 kg (110 pound) Hellfire missile. The Watchkeeper is 6.5 meters (20 feet) long and has an 11.3 meter (35 foot) wingspan. It can stay in the air for up to 20 hours per sortie and fly as high as 6,500 meters (20,000 feet). The Hermes 450 is the primary UAV for the Israeli armed forces, and twenty or more were in action each day during the 2006 war in Lebanon.


As of late 2015 Britain had received 33 of the 54 Watchkeepers ordered but did not have any pilots for them. That’s because doubts about getting permission to fly in Britain (at least in civilian air space) caused the training program to be put on hold. But now the training is underway but it will take two years to produce 24 Watchkeeper operators and eventually a hundred will be needed to handle a force of 54 Watchkeepers. There are about half a dozen Watchkeeper operators, but these are trainers. Meanwhile Britain does have nearly a decade of experience using large UAVs (like Watchkeeper, Predator and Reaper), mainly in Afghanistan. The operators were trained in the United States initially and later in Britain. Most of the training can be done on simulators and British operators in training can practice in UAVs flying in the United States because the Predator and Reaper use a satellite link to communicate with the operator. Three Watchkeepers were sent to Afghanistan in 2014 and performed well.


In the United States and Western Europe air safety bureaucrats have long resisted calls to allow UAVs to be used for commercial purposes. In some European nations even military UAVs are heavily restricted from operating, even in air space controlled by the military. In other parts of the world UAVs are allowed to operate in civilian air space with no ill-effects. China has become an enthusiastic user of UAVs for monitoring pollution, crops and to do many other commercial jobs that previously were handled, at much high cost, by manned aircraft or space satellites. Israel does all that as well as flying UAVs through civilian air space just to get them where needed for some security or military situation. Israel is a small country and there’s not much choice. But the Israelis and Chinese also did the math and realized that UAVs are the real or even potential danger that American and European flight safety bureaucrats believe exists. That sort of thing does little to change the rules for UAVs in North America and Europe.


These policies can be expensive. In 2013 Germany cancelled plans to buy five RQ-4 UAVs, and wrote off $700 million in development costs, because they found it impossible to get permission from European Union aviation bureaucrats to operate these 14 ton UAVs in Europe. Called the Euro Hawk, this German version of the American RQ-4 was to be equipped with European electronics and serve as a long endurance recon aircraft. The problem was that European aviation authorities demanded extensive tests to ensure that the unmanned Euro Hawk could coexist with manned aircraft in European air space. It was determined that this process would cost over $800 million and there was no guarantee the UAV would be cleared to operate.


Flying has long been much safer than most people believed it to be. That paranoia has been extended to UAVs despite no lives lost to UAV collisions in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else. There is a potential danger with large (over 50 kg/110 pound) UAVs, as these are hefty enough to bring down manned aircraft. Yet in a decade of heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan there has been one such collision for every 250,000 UAV flight hours. In the one incident so far there was no loss of life.


Despite the excellent safety record for UAVs in a combat zone, the fear of collisions has led to heavy restrictions on UAV use in disaster relief operations, which the military is often called upon for overseas and inside the United States. Right now the military must receive permission from the Secretary of Defense before using UAVs off the battlefield. That’s not really an issue at the moment because most recent disasters the military got involved in there were sufficient manned aircraft to look for survivors, assess damage, and so on. But overseas that is often not the case. Moreover disaster relief experts point out that in the early hours and days after a major disaster you can’t have too many eyes in the sky.


The one actual UAV collision took place in 2011 when a U.S. Army RQ-7 UAV and a U.S. Air Force C-130 transport collided. The RQ-7 hit a wing of the C-130, between the two engines. The RQ-7 was destroyed, while the C-130 had the skin of the front of that wing torn open and some of the interior spars bent. One of the props on the inboard propeller was destroyed (and that engine had to be turned off). But the C-130 was able to land safely, and parts and technicians were flown in to repair the C-130 where it was.


An RQ-7B Shadow 200 weighs only 159 kg (350 pounds), compared to 70,000 kg for a loaded C-130, so the outcome of this collision is not surprising. Shadow is small, being 3.5 meters (11 feet) long with a wingspan of 4.1 meters (12.75 feet). Most UAVs in the air over combat zones are even smaller. Indeed over 90 percent of them are the tiny two kilogram (4.4 pounds) Raven. Witnesses in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen a few of them destroyed, or simply knocked out of the air by a passing aircraft, usually a helicopter. Raven operators suspect that many of those that were lost for unknown reasons were similarly hit or caught in the backwash of low flying aircraft. A few have been seen getting attacked by birds. There have been very few recorded collisions.


The small, plastic, Raven would not do much noticeable damage to an aircraft. The pilots and crew of helicopters hit by Ravens apparently don’t notice it at all. After landing ground crews may notice a new dent and wonder where it came from. The Shadow collision was understandable because the Shadow is the largest UAV that often operates at low altitude (under 300 meters) and uses military airfields to land and take off.


In light of all this, the U.S. Army has developed a new radar system (GBSAA or Ground-Based Sense And Avoid) to increase safety for UAVs. GBSAA is mainly a software system using existing radars to track UAVs and manned aircraft and alert UAV operators when their UAVs are too close to other aircraft (manned or unmanned). GBSAA can be expanded to use transponders (which commercial aircraft have been using for a long time) and more flexible software. But the basic idea is to insure that UAV operators are no longer “blind” to what is in the air nearby. GBSAA had its first field test a year ago and it was a success. The first GBSAA was to be deployed in 2014 and five more bases will have it by 2016.


GBSAA will likely be more in demand by potential civilian UAV users. Battlefields have much lower safety standards than civilian air space, what with all those artillery and mortar shells, plus the bullets and rockets. But civilian air space has a lot of small aircraft and helicopters, so UAVs are generally banned. GBSAA could change that and make battlefields safer as the UAV traffic becomes denser.

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4 septembre 2013 3 04 /09 /septembre /2013 11:50
On Aug. 8, the EURO HAWK(R) unmanned aircraft sets an endurance record by flying 25.3 hours nonstop in European airspace. Cassidian photo by Josef Gietl.

On Aug. 8, the EURO HAWK(R) unmanned aircraft sets an endurance record by flying 25.3 hours nonstop in European airspace. Cassidian photo by Josef Gietl.

MANCHING, Germany – Sept. 3, 2013 – Northrop Grumman


The EURO HAWK® unmanned aircraft system (UAS) set an endurance record Aug. 8 when it flew continuously for 25.3 hours in European airspace. Built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), operating through its subsidiary Northrop Grumman ISS International Inc. (NGISSI), and Cassidian (EADS Deutschland GmbH), the UAS climbed to 58,600 feet over Manching Air Base, Germany.


With a wingspan greater than most commercial airliners, EURO HAWK® can fly at altitudes more than 60,000 feet for more than 30 hours. It can detect radar and communication emitters with its advanced signals intelligence sensors and updated payload software.

"This is the longest flight flown in European skies by an unrefuelled UAS in the more than 30,000-pound [14,600-kilogramme] class," said Rolf Wirtz, head of Mission Systems, Cassidian's UAS branch. "The EURO HAWK® has performed safely and reliably with good results throughout its entire flight test programme. It is the only system that can meet Germany's requirement for high-altitude signals intelligence surveillance missions."

On June 6, the EURO HAWK® flew over the North Sea for the first time, soaring throughout Germany before returning 6.5 hours later to Manching Air Base.

"To date, the EURO HAWK® has completed 19 flights and approximately 200 flight hours," said Janis Pamiljans, sector vice president and general manager of Unmanned Systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "I commend the entire EURO HAWK® customer and industry team on achieving this record-breaking flight. We remain committed to delivering the best technology solution at the most affordable cost to meet Germany's national security interests."

EURO HAWK® is an interoperable, modular and cost-effective replacement to the retired fleet of manned Breguet Atlantic aircraft, which was in service from 1972-2010. The flight test phase is currently scheduled through September 2013.


About Cassidian

Cassidian, an EADS company, is a worldwide leader in global security solutions and systems, providing lead system integration and value-added products and services to civil and military customers around the globe: air systems (aircraft and UAS), land, naval and joint systems, intelligence and surveillance, cybersecurity, secure communications, test systems, missiles, and services and support solutions. Please visit www.cassidian.com for more information.


About EuroHawk GmbH

EuroHawk GmbH, a 50-50 joint venture of Northrop Grumman and Cassidian, serves as the national prime contractor for the German Ministry of Defence through the system's entire life cycle. Please visit www.eurohawk.de for more information.


About Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cyber, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide. Please visit www.northropgrumman.com for more information.

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4 septembre 2013 3 04 /09 /septembre /2013 05:50
On Aug. 8, the EURO HAWK(R) unmanned aircraft sets an endurance record by flying 25.3 hours nonstop in European airspace. Cassidian photo by Josef Gietl.

On Aug. 8, the EURO HAWK(R) unmanned aircraft sets an endurance record by flying 25.3 hours nonstop in European airspace. Cassidian photo by Josef Gietl.

04.09.2013 - Helen Chachaty - journal-aviation.com


Northrop Grumman annonce que son drone EuroHawk a battu un record d’endurance le 8 août dernier en restant plus de 25 heures (25 heures et 18 minutes plus précisément) dans les airs. Il a atteint la hauteur de 58 600 pieds. C’est la première fois qu’un drone de cette catégorie (plus de 14 tonnes) vole aussi longtemps dans le ciel européen, selon Rolf Wirtz, directeur « systèmes de mission » de la branche Drones de Cassidian.


Il a par ailleurs ajouté que l’EuroHawk était « le seul système capable de répondre aux besoins de l’Allemagne pour les missions de renseignement et de surveillance à haute altitude », semblant oublier que l’Allemagne a annulé le programme EuroHawk le 15 mai dernier en raison de difficultés de certification.


D’après le communiqué diffusé par l’avionneur américain, la phase des essais en vol doit se poursuivre jusqu’à fin septembre. Le drone HALE dérivé du RQ-4 Global Hawk affiche actuellement 19 vols et 200 heures de vol au compteur.

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23 août 2013 5 23 /08 /août /2013 12:50
Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - CAssidian

Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - CAssidian

22 Aug 2013 By Zach Rosenberg – FG


Washington DC - Germany has denied that negotiations are ongoing in an attempt to salvage Northrop Grumman's Euro Hawk unmanned air vehicle (UAV) deal, nixed in May over airspace concerns.


The German ministry of defence expressed "surprise" with comments by Northrop vice-president Tom Vice, who spoke to reporters on 20 August.


"We're continuing to work with the Germans to find a solution on this programme," Vice said. "We continue to have discussions, but the thing we continue to point out is that the capability continues to match their needs. The programme is going extremely well we're making a lot of progress, we're having discussions, we'll see where that ends up."


The ministry is seeking clarification from involved companies.


The programme, meant to supply surveillance capabilities to Germany using four modified RQ-4 Global Hawks, is formally scheduled to end in September. The programme's cancellation was largely a result of Germany's airspace regulators, expressing concern over integrating UAVs routinely into airspace.


"The Global Hawk programme has 97% of its life ahead of it. It's a maturing programme," Vice said.


In the USA, Global Hawk has its own problems. Citing high costs and sub-par performance, the US Air Force is seeking to retire the Global Hawk Block 30, originally meant to replace the aging Lockheed U-2 in its surveillance role, while continuing operations of the Block 40.

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6 juin 2013 4 06 /06 /juin /2013 16:50
Embattled German Minister Defends EuroHawk Decision

June 6, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: German Ministry of Defence; issued June 5, 2013)

(Issued in German only; unofficial translation by defense-aerospace.com)


Ministerial Statement on Euro Hawk Development Project to the Defence Committee


BERLIN --- This is the statement issued today by Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière regarding the Euro Hawk Armor project following the Defence Committee on 5 June 2013:

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today I have submitted to the Defence Committee the report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Euro Hawk process. I have also presented my personal evaluation, and announced the consequences.

My evaluation of this process is as follows: The decision to continue to use this aircraft for training purposes until the end of September 2013, and at the same time not to procure production aircraft, as originally intended, is correct.

Also, this decision is not too late. Its timing is appropriate as it has prevented greater damage, and not increased it. Had the decision has been made earlier, it would not have been possible to benefit from the investment for training purposes. Therefore, the timing of the decision was also correct.

Nonetheless, the method had significant shortcomings. From the beginning, there was a design flaw at birth because of the different expectations on the American and the German sides. It began in 2002, 2004 to 2007, and in the following years.

Project management, that is the control process over the course of this project, was flawed and did not function, and my involvement was inadequate. The decision had been finally made at ministerial level. I then subsequently approved it.

This is not acceptable. Such a decision should have been made by myself.

For the future, among other consequences, we will change project management and we will organize the approval processes differently, while the participation of the Minister looks quite different.

Namely, I will regularly receive status reports on all major defense projects, not with “good weather” returns, but with detailed reporting of any problems and of proposed solutions.

We will then submit a report to the Defense and Budget Committees, so we can inform you of any problems at a time when corrective action is still possible.

I am reserving judgment on personnel consequences at the present time. These will depend on what results will be reported by the detailed review, namely in regarding management errors and such. I will then decide on appropriate actions, and they will be announced during a press conference.

Click here for the Ad Hoc Working Group report (85 PDF pages, German only).

Click here for the Minister’s report to the Defence Committee (13 PDF pages, in German only).

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6 juin 2013 4 06 /06 /juin /2013 16:50
De Maiziere Fails to Clarify Drone Debate, Expert Says

June 6, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: Deutsche Welle German radio; published June 5, 2013)


German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere claimed he was informed too late about the failed Euro Hawk drone project. Political scientist Christian Hacke tells DW why the minister's resignation may be appropriate.



DW: There has been considerable pressure on the defense minister in recent weeks for not having stopped the drone program sooner. He's testified before a parliamentary committee that he had hardly been involved in the project and was only later informed about the cancellation. Do you find this statement surprising?


Christian Hacke: Yes, I find the statement tremendously surprising. Since this debacle has gone public, de Maiziere has indicated that such glitches could occur. But he didn't say that this should be considered standard. What he said was that with such large projects over such long time periods, one could pretty much count on problems. I already found that to be playing down reality.


But now he's made a 180-degree turn in saying that he had no idea, implying that he considers the whole process to have been problematic. That's a skewed argument. Whether or not this is actually the case, both situations would be equally bad. At this point the question has to be asked if he's got a handle on his ministry at all. The situation for him has by no means improved.


DW: How can a minister involved in projects of such magnitude not be better informed, and how can deputy ministers be in a position to cancel the Euro Hawk project practically on their own?


Christian Hacke: This project has been running for some time now, de Maiziere's predecessors had already dealt with it. But with regard to projects of this magnitude, I cannot see how deputies could make such decisions by themselves, without involving the head of the ministry. If that was really the case, with deputy ministers allowed to do whatever they pleased, then de Maiziere didn't have the department under his control.


DW: Do you believe this is a failure on the part of de Maiziere's? Should he have actively sought out more information?


Christian Hacke: I've had a certain understanding for his position, in the sense that he does not find out about everything, or does not find out in a timely manner. But now that he's made a point of describing how the ministerial deputies went around him to cancel the project without his approval - I find that very vexing. He should really take responsibility. That's the case if he did know beforehand, which he now denies, as well as if while he is running a ministry and decisions get made without him.


DW: De Maiziere has ruled out resigning, but is reserving the option of personnel consequences in the ministry. Do you think it would be fair if he lets go his deputies?


Christian Hacke: Indeed, the question is whether the opposition and his own party would be satisfied with this. They may say that people are just being sacrificed here. I cannot judge the competency of the ministerial deputies. I also don't know if maybe they are in some kind of bureaucratic fight with the minister. But to be honest, one can't rule out the consequence that demands for de Maiziere's resignation will become louder.


DW: Are the explanations that de Maiziere provided adequate? What still remains to be clarified, in your opinion?


Christian Hacke: Until now, merely the technical, bureaucratic and financial aspects of this affair have been discussed. Which is important, and correct. But beyond that, there are so many other important questions that have not been addressed at all. What are the effects of the Euro Hawk on Germany's national security? Do drones fit into our defense strategy? And the ethical questions, summarized by the idea of death by joystick: Who is allowed to kill, and who will be killed? Not to mention the global dimension: How do these drones contribute to an arms race? At this point the West has a monopoly on drones, but that doesn't mean that authoritarian states won't someday also have drones.


All of these topics have been completely left out, and also received short shrift in de Maiziere's appearance before the parliamentary committee. That's why I say that the debate taking place for years in Berlin has been provincial, and the minister has in no way brought clarity to these issues.



Christian Hacke is professor emeritus at the Institute for Political Science and Sociology at the University of Bonn.

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6 juin 2013 4 06 /06 /juin /2013 07:50
Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - Cassidian

Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - Cassidian

June 5, 2013 defense-unmanned.com

(Source: Deutsche Welle German radio; issued June 4, 2013)


The Euro Hawk Scandal: A Chronicle


Development of the Euro Hawk drone cost hundreds of millions of euros. Despite early indications of problems, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière held on to the project. DW chronicles the Euro Hawk's short life.



The government coalition of Social Democrats and Greens laid the foundation for the development of a surveillance drone as early as 2001. Five defense ministers came and went during the planning and trial process of the Euro Hawk unmanned aircraft. Warnings of flight permit problems came early. Here's what happened between the project's start in 2001 and its sudden end in 2013.



As a member of the SPD/Greens coalition government, Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping (SPD) planned the commission of a surveillance drone that would fly at a height of 20 kilometers (12 miles) and registers radio and radar signals with the help of modern technology. US defense technology company Northrop Grumman was to be tasked with production, while European aviation firm EADS was to develop the surveillance technology. That was as far as plans went.



During Peter Struck's (SPD) term as defense minister, America's Global Hawk performed its first test flights in German air space. That drone served as the prototype for the "Euro Hawk." The six successful flights laid the foundation for cooperation between the companies involved and the German defense ministry that followed.



The Bundeswehr asked EADS and Northrop Grumman to present an offer for the development, production and delivery of a Euro Hawk.


Then came the first words of caution. An EADS employee warned that an anti-collision system was necessary, particularly during departure and landing. On other occasions, similar warnings came from air traffic controllers, the private sector and the German military itself.



In November, EADS and Northrop Grumman founded the 'Euro Hawk GmbH' corporation. In December, they presented their bid. Public announcements about the project appear not to have been made.


Looking back, Franz Josef Jung (CDU), the defense minister at that time, recently told the German weekly "Bild am Sonntag" that the contract included an automatic anti-collision system and a "recourse clause."



The budget committee in Germany's lower house of parliament approved the program in late January 2007. The defense ministry signed a 430-million-euro ($560-million) contract with the Euro Hawk GmbH corporation for the drone project.



According to current reports in "Spiegel" magazine, German military inspectors pointed out potential flight permit issues in summer 2009. They criticized the manufacturer for not providing any approved construction documents that would have facilitated the obtaining of those permits. It also remains unclear whether members of the German army were even authorized to issue flight permits for the drone.


But under pressure from the defense ministry, with Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU) as minister, a military inspector eventually carried out the necessary tests allowing for a temporary permission of flight.



In June, the Euro Hawk took off for the first time. It flew from the Northrop Grumman plant in Palmdale, California to the Edwards Air Force Base in the same state. The flight lasted two hours.



On July 20, the aircraft embarked on its way to Germany and landed on Manching air field near Ingolstadt after 22 hours in the air.


Officially, this was seen as a success and hailed as the beginning of a new era of surveillance. At the time, the drone had a temporary traffic permit and could only take off and land in restricted air space.


There were reports that contact was temporarily lost with the drone during the flight and that it had deviated from its programmed route. US security authorities had denied overflight permission for the Euro Hawk within the United States.


Toward the end of 2011, the German defense ministry under current minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) discovered that flight permits would cost an additional 500 to 600 million euros.



In early 2013, the drone flew for six hours over Germany, marking another test flight that was viewed as a success.


But Defense Minister de Maizière stopped the drone project in May because of massive problems in obtaining flight permits for European airspace. Construction documents were missing for some 120 Euro Hawk components. Amid growing criticism, de Maizière also announced his ministry's decision to deliver sensitive Euro Hawk documents uncensored to Germany's Federal Court of Auditors.


A short while later, Northrop Grumman and EADS issued a joint statement contradicting the defense ministry. "Media reports that indicate there are challenges with the aircraft's flight control system, as well as excessive costs associated with completing airworthiness certification, are inaccurate," they said.


The full Euro Hawk system, the companies added, performed flawlessly and safely throughout the entire flight test program.


The defense ministry grounded its decision to suddenly the Euro Hawk program on the expected additional costs of up to 600 million euros.

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6 juin 2013 4 06 /06 /juin /2013 06:50
Merkel Ally Admits Mistakes In German Drone Scandal

Jun. 5, 2013 Defense News (AFP)


BERLIN — German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Wednesday admitted missteps by his staff in connection with an election-year scandal over a scrapped spy drone deal, but insisted he had no plans to step down.


With less than four months to go until the national poll, De Maiziere, one of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s closest allies, said he had made the right decision to pull the plug on the so-called Euro Hawk project last month.


But he acknowledged that he had been kept in the dark for too long on problems with the unmanned surveillance aircraft program, which had already swallowed more than €500 million euros (US $654 million) before he axed it.


“I regret that,” he told reporters.


“I should have organized my ministry in this area so that I as the minister would be involved in decisions with this kind of scope.”


Officials feared aviation authorities would not certify the Euro Hawk — a version of US-based Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk customized by Europe’s EADS — because it lacks an anti-collision system.


The ministry decided the cost of adding such a system was too high, in what German media have dubbed the “drone debacle.”


But asked whether he would resign as a result, De Maiziere said the main consequence of the affair would be an overhaul of his ministry to ensure quicker whistle-blowing.


Merkel’s spokesman told a regular briefing that the minister still enjoyed her “full confidence.”


De Maiziere presented a report on the scandal to parliament’s defense committee earlier Wednesday in which he said he will commission regular status reports on major acquisitions and development projects.


“We have got to encourage people to step forward and call attention to problems, not just tell us what they think we want to hear,” he said.


But he dismissed a key allegation of the center-left opposition, which has stepped up attacks on him as the election campaign gets into full swing — that he wasted taxpayers’ money with a tardy decision.


“The delay did not incur financial damages but rather avoided them,” he said, arguing that it was clear only at a late stage of development that the project would not be worth the expense.


But a poll of voter confidence for Stern magazine showed that De Maiziere, long one of Germany’s most popular politicians, had tumbled six points since the last survey in February to 45 points out of 100.


Viewed as a safe pair of hands with a particular talent for organization and administration, De Maiziere had figured on the short list of possible candidates to eventually take the reins from Merkel.


But the drone scandal has largely silenced such talk.

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6 juin 2013 4 06 /06 /juin /2013 06:50
EuroHawk: Implications for Germany and NATO

June 5, 2013 defense-unmanned.com

(Source: International Relations and Security Network; issued June 3, 2013)


The End of the German Euro Hawk Programme – The Implications for Germany and NATO


Germany’s decision to cancel its purchase of Euro Hawk UAVs has turned into a major political scandal for the Merkel government. Justyna Gotkowska warns that it may also have serious consequences for NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) program.



On 14 May, the German Ministry of Defence announced it would be withdrawing from the planned purchased of the Euro Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles. The reasons given for this were the difficulties and high costs of introducing the system to general air traffic in Germany and Europe.


Germany abandoning one of its largest armament programmes has turned into an unprecedented scandal over the procurement of armament and military equipment in Germany. This concerns both the costs incurred (between 600 and 800 million euros) and the manner in which the programme was being run by the Ministry of Defence. The opposition is capitalising on this scandal in the run up to the election to the Bundestag scheduled for September 2013. Dismissals at the German Ministry of Defence should not be ruled out, either.


The scandal may also have adverse consequences for one of NATO’s most important programmes, Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS). This may lead to further delays in the implementation of the programme and an increase in costs resulting from the adjustment of the commissioned system to new European regulations.


The German Euro Hawk programme


Euro Hawk was one of Germany’s largest armament programmes over the past few years and was one of the flagships of German-US armament co-operation programmes. As part of this programme, whose estimated cost was approximately 1.3 billion euros, Germany was to buy five unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Euro Hawk was to be used for signals intelligence (SIGINT). As an unmanned HALE (high altitude long-endurance) system it was supposed to be able to carry out surveillance missions over large spaces at a flight level of up to 18 km (above commercial aircraft flights) and with a flight duration of up to approximately 30 hours. The Euro Hawk programme was initiated in 2001 by the SPD/Green Party government. The contract for the development of the Euro Hawk system was signed in 2007 by the CDU/CSU/SPD government, Germany received the prototype in July 2011 during the present CDU/CSU/FDP coalition.


The construction of the Euro Hawk is based on the Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 20 produced by the US company Northrop Grumman. The Euro/Global Hawk (length: 14.5 m, wingspan: 40 m) is currently among the world’s largest military UAVs. The construction of the Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 20 was adjusted to meet the German needs. The UAV was equipped with SIGINT sensors manufactured by Germany’s Cassidian, part of EADS company. The costs of the prototype, including SIGINT sensors, and of testing it since July 2011 and the costs of adjusting the Jagel military airbase probably reached between 600 and 800 million euros (according to some estimates, this figure reached 1 billion euros).


In mid-May this year, the German Ministry of Defence announced it would be entirely withdrawing from the Euro Hawk programme, i.e. the purchase of the remaining four UAVs and the operational use of the prototype. The reasons given for this decision included great difficulties and enormous additional costs (500–600 million euros) linked to the procedure of admitting the UAV for use in German general airspace outside the segregated airspace (i.e. strictly defined areas). This will be necessary if this kind of UAV is to be used in Germany (and in Europe) due to the fact that German (and European) airspace is used intensely.


According to information from the German MoD, the problems concerned lacks in the technical documentation provided by the US company. The press reported that there were probably also some technical problems with the prototype, namely problems maintaining contact between the UAV and the ground control station, as well as Northrop Grumman’s unwillingness to provide sensitive technical data and the lack of an automatic anti-collision system.


The end of the Euro Hawk programme - the consequences for Germany


The winding up of the Euro Hawk programme due to difficulties with admitting its use in general air traffic has provoked one of the biggest scandals of the past few years in the field of armament and military equipment procurement in Germany. The costs incurred and the procedures applied and also the manner in which the programme had been organised by the German Ministry of Defence have caused outrage among the general public.


Firstly, the ministry paid a huge price for the construction of a prototype, probably without having reserved the right to recoup at least part of the money, due to the provisions of the contract signed with the Euro Hawk consortium (formed by Northrop Grumman and Cassidian). Furthermore, given its desire to use the SIGINT sensors, which were developed for the Euro Hawk system, the ministry must buy new platforms (most likely, manned aircraft).


Secondly, information on possible problems with Euro Hawk being admitted to use in the general airspace was probably available already before the contract concerning the prototype development was signed, and at least since 2011. Nevertheless, this did not lead either to the programme being interrupted or to the contract with the consortium being amended.


Thirdly, due to the contract provisions which guaranteed Northrop Grumman the right to refuse to disclose information to any third parties, the Ministry of Defence restricted the Bundesrechnungshof (the Federal Court of Auditors) access to part of the programme’s documentation. It thus prevented a financial audit of the programme, which is contrary to German law.


Although all German governments since 2001 have been involved in the development of the programme, starting with the SPD/Green Party coalition, the responsibility for the scandal over the Euro Hawk programme is pinned primarily on the present defence minister, Thomas de Maiziere (CDU). Until recently, he had the reputation of being one of the best ministers in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet. The opposition has been capitalising on this issue in their campaign ahead of the election to the Bundestag. Dismissals at the Ministry of Defence cannot be ruled out, either.


The consequences for NATO’s AGS programme


Germany’s withdrawal from the Euro Hawk programme due to problems with UAVs being admitted to general air traffic may also have implications for NATO and one of its most important programmes, Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS).


The goal of the AGS programme is to enable NATO to conduct airborne surveillance operations, such as detecting and tracking stationary and moving objects in real time in any weather conditions. The AGS system will consists of five Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 40 and ground control station based in Sicily, Italy. According to the schedule, the system will achieve operational capability in 2015–2017. Fourteen countries, including Germany participate in the AGS programme, the estimated cost of which is 1.3 billion euros (Poland is planning to re-join it). The German contribution is 483 million euros. Germany also planned (no contracts have been signed as yet) to buy an additional four Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 40 with similar capabilities to NATO’s AGS.


After the cancellation of the Euro Hawk programme questions have appeared in discussions in Germany as to the possible problems Global Hawk system could have with gaining access to general airspace in Italy (certification of NATO’s Global Hawks) and in Germany (certification of the German Global Hawks). Furthermore, no uniform European legal regulations exist concerning the use of military UAVs in European general airspace. The first steps have been taken in this direction. So far, there is only one document which provides non-binding guidelines from the EUROCONTROL organisation which defines the minimum requirements, rules and criteria for flights of UAVs, including the Global Hawk system. Pursuant to this document, they should meet the same safety criteria as those applicable to manned aircraft.


As a consequence of the Euro Hawk scandal, those German politicians who deal with military issues – from the opposition (the SPD and the Green Party) and the government coalition (the FDP and even CDU) alike, are insisting that funding be withdrawn from all programmes involving UAVs. This concerns both the German contribution to the AGS programme and the German MoD’s plans to buy a further four Global Hawks.


Firstly, until it becomes clear whether the UAVs will be admitted to use in general airspace in Germany. Secondly, until European regulations concerning the use of UAVs in general airspace in Europe are introduced.


If the current or future German government backs these demands, this may spell a further delay in the process to achieve operational capability for NATO’s AGS system and perhaps also an increase in the costs due to the possible need to adjust the system to new European regulations.

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5 juin 2013 3 05 /06 /juin /2013 12:50
Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - Cassidian

Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - Cassidian

4 juin 2013 Hanna Klimpe - Courrier international


La presse allemande spécule sur le sort du ministre de la Défense, Thomas de Maizière, qui doit être entendu ce mardi 4 juin par l'Otan et mercredi 5 juin par le Bundestag à propos de l'affaire Euro Hawk, le programme d'achat de drones défaillants.


"Je souffre de la pression que je dois supporter", telle est l'information la plus précise que la presse a reçue jusque-là du ministre de la Défense, Thomas de Maizière, à propos de l'affaire Euro Hawk [drone de reconnaissance non armé]. Il s'agit de l'achat de drones inutilisables, car défaillants. Une affaire qui a coûté des centaines de millions d'euros au pays.

Cette semaine, le ministre de la Défense doit s'expliquer : le mardi 4 juin auprès de l'OTAN, à Bruxelles ; le mercredi 5 juin auprès du Bundestag. Ce sera "La semaine de la vérité pour Thomas de Maizière", titre Die Welt.

Cependant, la presse rapporte chaque jour de nouveaux éléments. Les derniers venant du Spiegel, qui a consacré sa une à l'affaire : "D'après les recherches du Spiegel, la direction du ministère de la Défense était informée de la dimension des problèmes avec le projet des drones Euro Hawk [...]. Mais ce n'est que quinze mois plus tard que le ministre a arrêté ce programme."

Pour la Süddeutsche Zeitung, ce scandale concerne les dysfonctionnements de l'administration. "Thomas de Maizière a un problème massif dont les dimensions énormes auraient pu être évitées si on s'était intéressé un peu plus aux détails dans son ministère", note Christoph Hickmann dans un article intitulé "La misère".

Déjà des voix s'élèvent pour exiger des sanctions personnelles, allant jusqu'à la démission du ministre. "L'opposition veut soumettre Maizière à un feu croisé de questions", titre ZEIT Online. "Le sacrifice d'un pion ne suffira pas", écrit l'hebdomadaire, en citant le chef du groupe parlementaire social-démocrate [SPD, opposition], Thomas Oppermann. La chancelière Angela Merkel a jusque-là évité de prendre position. "Le ministre de la Défense a annoncé pour cette semaine un exposé détaillé sur le projet depuis son commencement il y a dix ans. Je ne préjugerai pas avant de l'avoir entendu", a-t-elle souligné.

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3 juin 2013 1 03 /06 /juin /2013 18:50
Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - Cassidian

Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - Cassidian

Jun. 3, 2013 – By DEBORAH COLE (AFP) - Defense News


BERLIN — A simmering election-year scandal around German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s defense minister over a botched drone deal threatens to boil over this week when he testifies before lawmakers.


The minister, Thomas de Maiziere, is a close confidant of Merkel’s from her conservative Christian Democratic Union and had often been mentioned as a possible successor to the 58-year-old leader.


But with less than four months to go until a September general election, De Maiziere, 59, has become entangled in allegations he mismanaged a now-scrapped unmanned surveillance aircraft project with costly consequences.


The Euro Hawk program had already swallowed more than €500 million (US $651 million) before the defense ministry said on May 14 it would pull the plug.


Officials feared aviation authorities would not certify the Euro Hawk — a version of US-based Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk customized by Europe’s EADS — because it lacks an anti-collision system.


The ministry deemed the cost of adding such a system prohibitive.


De Maiziere, who has been attacked for failing to act far earlier, is due on Wednesday to present a report to parliament’s defense committee on what the media have dubbed the “drone debacle.”


He has been at Merkel’s side since she took power in 2005, serving during her first term as her chief of staff before taking over the defense brief after her re-election in 2009.


Long viewed as a safe pair of hands with a particular talent for organization and administration, De Maiziere had figured on the short list of possible candidates to eventually take over the reins from Merkel.


Commentators said that speculation now looks to be quashed.


“De Maiziere could have become chancellor one day but since the drones crisis, no one is talking about that possibility anymore,” the center-left daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote Monday.


“The question is simply how De Maiziere will handle his mistakes and whether he can keep his job.”


The wasted funds come at a time in which Merkel has been preaching fiscal discipline throughout the eurozone as a means to check the spiralling debt crisis.


De Maiziere will face deputies just days after news weekly Der Spiegel reported that senior defense ministry officials were aware as early as February 2012 about the concerns that led to the program’s cancellation last month.


Opposition leaders, who have been struggling to score points during the election campaign against the popular Merkel, leapt on the report.


The head of the Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, called De Maiziere’s long silence on the affair “unworthy” of his office, while Greens’ parliamentary group chief Juergen Trittin threatened a formal probe.


Last month, Merkel’s spokesman insisted that De Maiziere had her “full confidence.”


But in an interview with Der Spiegel published Saturday, Merkel appeared reticent on his crisis management.


“The defense minister said he would present a comprehensive report this week about the project from its beginnings more than 10 years ago,” she said when asked about his future in the cabinet.


“I do not wish to preempt that.”


De Maiziere had already run into trouble in February when he criticized German soldiers in Afghanistan who complained about a lack of public acknowledgement for their service, saying they appeared to be “addicted” to praise.


After a massive uproar, he said he regretted if his remarks had caused offense.

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30 mai 2013 4 30 /05 /mai /2013 17:50
Le drone Euro Hawk : l'armée allemande dans l'embarras

28 mai 2013 Christoph Hickmann Süddeutsche Zeitung


"La débâcle des drones" – c'est le nom que les Allemands ont donné à un énorme scandale au sujet de l'acquisition de drones qui ne seront jamais utilisés mais qui ont coûté près de 700 millions d'euros. Le ministre de la Défense vacille.

CONTEXTE - Ce fut une mort lente d'un projet ambitieux dans lequel l'armée fédérale allemande était prête à investir un milliard d'euros : l'achat de cinq drones Euro Hawk, le plus grand avion sans pilote dans l'espace aérien européen, a été abandonné À LA mi-mai par le ministère de la Défense. Ceci n'avait rien de surprenant : des complications techniques lors de la transformation du drone américain Global Hawk en sa version européenne étaient connues depuis longtemps. Au bout du compte, l'impossibilité d'obtenir une autorisation pour l’utiliser dans l’espace aérien allemand et européen a mis fin au projet : "Mieux vaut une fin effroyable qu'une frayeur sans fin", note la Süddeutsche Zeitung en citant un employé du ministère.

Sauf que le projet Euro Hawk a coûté 508 millions d'euros, plus 158 millions d'euros pour des obligations contractuelles pas encore payées. Le scandale fait chanceler le ministre de la Défense Thomas de Maizière, que l'opposition accuse d'avoir dissimulé les défaillances de l'appareil. De Maizière a prévu de s'expliquer en détail le 5 juin. En attendant, les questions s'accumulent : au-delà des nouvelles révélations affirmant que les problèmes avec l'Euro Hawk étaient connus depuis 2009, un nouveau scandale s'annonce. D'après les informations de la
Bild am Sonntag, le ministère public de Coblence enquête au sein de l'armée fédérale pour corruption lors de l'achat de fusils... défaillants eux aussi. Le quotidien de Munich voit dans l'affaire un cas d'école de tout ce qui va mal dans l'armée allemande.


Rétrospectivement, il apparaît qu'une femme et cinq hommes avaient pressenti ce qui allait arriver trente mois plus tard. En octobre 2010, la commission structurelle de la Bundeswehr [l'armée allemande] avait présenté un rapport rédigé sous la présidence de Frank-Jürgen Weise, président de l'agence pour l'emploi. Au paragraphe 4.4.1 (Armement-Approvisionnement-Exploitation), les auteurs notaient : "La fourniture des équipements requis par les forces armées ne respecte ni les délais imposés, ni les limites de coût prévues." Un peu plus loin, il était écrit que "les processus en vigueur et leur application ne satisfont pas aux exigences actuelles de flexibilité et de réactivité".

Il apparaît clairement que ces deux commentaires étaient parfaitement fondés dans le cas du programme Euro Hawk, à la nuance près que ces drones de reconnaissance n'ont pas seulement été livrés trop tard et trop cher, mais que la Bundeswehr ne s'en servira jamais (à l'exception des vols d'essai qui devraient se poursuivre jusqu'à la fin du mois de septembre).

Un désastre pour le ministre

Pour le ministre allemand de la Défense, Thomas de Maizière, l'affaire est un véritable désastre. Ses détracteurs affirment aujourd'hui que la décision de renoncer au programme Euro Hawk avait déjà été prise avant son entrée en fonction et que les insuffisances des contrats d'approvisionnement s'expliqueraient par des raisons structurelles et personnelles.

La commission structurelle en faisait le constat en 2010 : "Concernant des besoins essentiels en terme d'engagement et de gestion de produits disponibles sur le marché, les processus d'intégration et de test prennent plusieurs années en raison de la multiplicité des acteurs impliqués, de la division des tâches et du climat d'indécision qui règne dans la direction des projets."

L'accès à l'appareil refusé, des vols d'essai avortés

Le magazine Spiegel a levé un nouveau coin du voile le week-end dernier [les 25 et 26 mai 2013]. Durant l'été 2009, rapporte l'hebdomadaire, plusieurs spécialistes du service de l'équipement, des technologies de l'information et de l'exploitation de l'armée allemande (BAAINBw) se seraient rendus aux Etats-Unis pour se rendre compte de l'avancement des travaux.

Ils auraient alors tiré la sonnette d'alarme dans un rapport rédigé à leur retour : le drone était déjà prêt (contrairement à ce qui avait été demandé) mais n'ayant pu avoir pleinement accès à l'appareil, les spécialistes n'avaient pas mené leur examen plus loin. Le feu vert décisif avait dû être donné par un collaborateur qui n'était plus responsable du dossier.
Le magazine laissait également à penser que les vols d'essai du drone auraient été effectués par des pilotes américains à la place des pilotes allemands pourtant spécialement formés.

L'approvisionnement chaotique de l'armée allemande

Et comme si le ministre n'avait pas assez de problèmes avec la révélation incessante de nouveaux détails de l'affaire, Bild am Sonntag a lancé un nouveau pavé dans la mare. Le journal vient de révéler que le procureur de Coblence avait ouvert une enquête visant un général et plusieurs de ses collaborateurs au ministère de la Défense ainsi que des "responsables d'une entreprise d'armement allemande".

Il s'agirait de soupçons de corruption en lien avec la livraison d'armes à la Bundeswehr : alors que plusieurs examens avaient révélé des vices de fabrication, les armes avaient été livrées aux troupes. Une perquisition a déjà été menée dans les locaux de la BAAINBw en mars dernier.

Deux dossiers et deux situations chaotiques dans le domaine de l'approvisionnement. Le ministre de la Défense devrait s'expliquer plus longuement sur l'affaire Euro Hawk le 5 juin. Il s'est toutefois déjà confié au Bild am Sonntag en déclarant : "Je souffre de la pression que je dois supporter."
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30 mai 2013 4 30 /05 /mai /2013 16:50
Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - Cassidian

Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - Cassidian

May. 29, 2013 Defense News (AFP)


BERLIN — 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 €508 million (US $657 million) 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.”


Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said the government supports “broad societal debate” on whether Germany should acquire armed drones, to be used in accordance with international law.


Drones are controversial in Germany, both because of battlefield “collateral damage,” or civilian deaths, and because of their spying capabilities, which evoke dark memories from past fascist and communist regimes.


The defense ministry spokesman, asked whether he could see combat-ready drones ever being deployed in Germany, for example in anti-terrorism operations, said: “I don’t foresee this.”

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16 mai 2013 4 16 /05 /mai /2013 12:50
L'Allemagne renonce à une commande de drones Euro Hawks d'une valeur de plus de 1 milliard d'euros

15/05 Par Bruno Trevidic – LesEchos.fr


Nouveau revers pour les activités drones d'EADS, déjà très compromises après l'échec du programme Talarion. Berlin a annoncé hier l'annulation d'une commande de cinq drones Euro Hawks, d'une valeur de plus de 1 milliard d'euros. Bien que fabriqués par l'américain Northrop Grumman, ces drones de haute altitude dédiés à la surveillance électronique devaient être reconfigurés par le groupe européen.


Un premier appareil avait été livré à l'Allemagne, qui a déjà dépensé 508 millions d'euros sur ce programme. Berlin explique sa décision par l'impossibilité d'obtenir la certification des autorités aériennes européennes. Une explication peu convaincante. Mais, quoi qu'il en soit, ce nouvel abandon enlève à Cassidian, la branche défense d'EADS, le peu de commandes qui lui restaient dans les drones.

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