German Air Force eyes Euro Hawk revival

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BLACKEAGLE

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Key Points
  • The German Air Force is keen to regain an airborne SIGINT capability and is considering a revival of the Euro Hawk programme.
  • The relaunched programme could be based on the existing Euro Hawk aircraft, or on an alternative manned or unmanned platform.
The German Air Force is to consider alternative manned and unmanned options should it elect to revive its infamous EUR1.2 billion Northrop Grumman/Airbus RQ-4E Euro Hawk programme, which was cancelled in 2013.

Defence sources within the German Air Force said they were "90%" confident that the Euro Hawk's signals intelligence (SIGINT) payload will fly no later than 2016 on board an alternative platform that has yet to be selected. The air force is understood to be concerned about a lack of SIGINT capability after it ceased operation of the Breguet Br 1150 Atlantic 'Peace Peek' in 2010.

In October, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen announced her intention to restore the High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Euro Hawk programme which had been mothballed due to airspace integration and airworthiness issues.

Speaking to IHS Jane's , Colonel Roland Runge, head of the ISR and UAS Division at the German Air Force, there is likely to be a manned or unmanned follow-on to the Euro Hawk programme. "We cannot waste too much time," he said.

Speaking at the UAS Simulation & Training conference in London on 9 December, Col Runge confirmed the government was considering an option to finish off development of the Euro Hawk programme with the possibility to revive the single demonstrator aircraft, currently sitting idle in a Munich hangar. However, he stressed no decision had yet been made.

Manned options include business jets such as Airbus's ACJ319 and Bombardier's Global Express XRS or Global 5000. Another manned option, which has since been excluded, is Airbus's A400M transport aircraft, which was discounted due to turbulence and vibration issues associated with sensor payloads being located too close to engines on the wings.

Unmanned options include IAI's Heron TP, although a single air frame lacks sufficient payload capacity to carry Euro Hawk's SIGINT package. A total of two Heron TP aircraft would therefore be required to carry the sensor load, making this option almost unworkable, Col Runge said.

"The only sensible unmanned aircraft would be a Global Hawk derivative. But now we are looking at business type aircraft or perhaps there is some magic USAF [United States Air Force] platform that we don't know about yet. No decision has been made," he added.

"Euro Hawk is not dead and this capability would be best placed on a Global Hawk derivative," Col Runge continued while referring to the US Navy's MQ-4C Triton variant that has also been sold to Australia.

A spokesperson for Northrop Grumman told IHS Jane's : 'We are aware that the German MoD is investigating options to fulfil their airborne SIGINT needs. We believe a Global Hawk-based variant is the only system that can affordably meet their SIGINT requirements. Triton would be the best fit because the US Navy's requirements are similar to what Germany is looking for."

An industry source confirmed to IHS Jane's that any relaunch of the programme would initially rely upon the existing Euro Hawk UAV. However, it was added that should the German government select to continue the programme on board an MQ-4C Triton in the medium term and beyond, the air force would be able to take advantage of the air frame's anti-ice capability as well as sense-and-avoid technologies which would assist with integration into European airspace.

German Air Force eyes Euro Hawk revival - IHS Jane's 360
 
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