Backed by a strong American headwind, Germany has built the biggest unmanned aerial vehicle in the world.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that the Signals Intelligence 15-ton Euro Hawk 9901was co-produced with Northrop Grumman on the basis of the American Global Hawk. It is miles ahead of any similar UAV in service with any European member of NATO or Russia.
The US has invested about $3 billion and is training technical crews for operating the pilotless craft. When it goes into operational service in 2015, the German Air Force, Federal Intelligence Service – BND and the Military Counterintelligence Service – MAD will be able to match America's unparalleled capabilities for data collection, listening into the softest whispered military and civilian radio messages, cell phone conversations and text messages, as well as recording radio and TV broadcasts and registering enemy missiles and radar stations.
In view of Germany's growing inclination to pull out of the Eurozone, even though this would bring the bloc to collapse, the Euro Hawk may also contribute to Berlin's detachment from the continent's military systems as hoped for by German strategic and military planners ever since NATO embarked on its military operations in Libya.
Given Chancellor Angela Merkel's refusal to join Britain, France and Italy in their Libya campaign, it may be assumed that the Germans will deny NATO access to the new drone technology – and certainly refuse to allow its deployment in alliance operations.
The "Hawk" passes its first test with flying colors
German caginess also applies to the Americans.
On its maiden flight, the new spy drone flew directly from the Edwards Air Force Base, California to Manching Air Base in Southern Germany “naked,” i.e. stripped clean of German sensors and intelligence technology, which Berlin is keeping well out of sight even of its American partners.
The flight took 23 hours, although the drone has an endurance of 30 hours flying at maximum altitude of more than 60,000 feet.
“It’s a milestone for us,” says Rudinger Knopfel, a project manager at the Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement after nearly 10 years of planning the Euro Hawk.
AT 15 meters long, and with a wingspan of 40 meters, the Euro Hawk can outperform any comparable systems, flying at speeds of p to 600 kilometers per hour, staying airborne for up to 30 hours and able to fly 23,000 kilometers – or as far as New Zealand.
The giant drone can easily reach Afghanistan, where the German contingents will soon be drawn down.
Euro Hawk already passed one important test:
By flying the 10,000 kilometers from Edwards Air Base to Manchjing in 24 hours on July 21, the Hawk passed its first test with flying colors.
The ground station will work 24/7
Germany has ordered five more of those UAV's from the American manufacturer with a view to acquiring at least ten in the next five years.
A ground station for receiving all the broadcasts relayed by the new drone has been built at Nienburg in Lower Saxony. The German Electronic Warfare Battalion 912 has settled in there ready to take responsibility for operating the station and securing it against foreign infiltration.
The German Air Force and intelligence have trained 11 pilots for operating the Euro Hawk after courses they took at Northrop Grumman.
There are not enough to operate the drones 24/7, without doing more than one shift per 24 hours until the team is augmented.
By the summer of 2012, the plane will be ready to hand over to the “Immelmann” Reconnaissance Squadron 51 in Jagel, Schleswig-Holstein. The first series models should be ready in 2015.