Drone mishap turns bizarre

U.S. defense contractor Northrop Grumman says all of its Hawk drones had anti-collision systems, but the Euro Hawk’s had been tested for "express desire" of the client none has been installed

Allegedly, the German Armed Forces’ Euro Hawk project had to be "Reibleine" are being pulled out because drones made by U.S. aerospace company Northrop Grumman have been denied access to civilian airspace due to a lack of an anti-collision system. The situation with the European Global Hawk project could be similar, it is amed, which would drive the costs even higher.

A Global Hawk. Image: USAF

Now, however, Tim Paynter, the spokesman for the U.S. defense contractor, explains that the Defense Department has not yet informed Northrop Grumman that it is pulling out of the 1.2 billion dollar project. The reasons are known only from the media. What one had read, Paynter said today to ARD, was "completely groundless". By this he means, above all, the statement that the drones had no anti-collision systems. But all drones of the Hawk family had the technology. It was only based on "express wish" have not been installed. While it hieb that the installation of such a system would cost another 500-600 million euros, the installation after Paynter is however completely simple and also cheaper, because all necessary wiring is already present.

As a reason for not having submitted all documents to the Federal Court of Auditors, the Defense Ministry said that this had been necessary for reasons of secrecy on the part of the manufacturer. Paynter again says that 4,000 documents including blueprints were made available, but there was never a clear instruction from the Germans as to what documents were needed. If the statements are true, the matter becomes even more mysterious. De Maiziere has gone into hiding until the beginning of June with regard to the reasons for the exit, because he wants to inform the parliamentarians first before the burghers. Presumably, however, he only wants to stall for time in order to shed light on the chaos. He had dealt with the access ies soon after taking office, he told Deutschlandradio today. One problem was that there was no "legal rules" He also said that there were problems with the technology due to the influx of unmanned aircraft in Germany and Europe: "You can either wait for the legal framework and then start the technique, or you can do the technique first without the legal framework." Both do not go, it had to be developed together. So, could it be that the anti-collision system was not to be installed because of the need for the "legal regulations" but then the whole thing got out of hand or was forgotten?

Otherwise, he points out that there are always problems with the procurement of new technology and that if there are signs of problems, it is not possible to pull out right away; instead, it is a matter of finding a sensible way forward here:

There is not a single procurement procedure without problems of this rough order. Again, we’re working on the leading edge of technology. The question is, are problems solvable?. And when they prove impossible to get rid of with reasonable effort, that’s the right time to pull the rip cord. This is the question at stake.

Regarding the allegedly missing documents for the Zulang, de Maiziere said vaguely, which does not eliminate Northrop Grumman’s accusation:

In any case, our documentation requirements for admissions are stricter than those in the United States of America. When you certify a locomotive, when you certify a car, when you certify an airplane, every single component has to be documented and every single component is certified, a turbine, a carburetor, a metal alloy, and so on. There we are very basic, as we Germans are. The Americans don’t. And this leads to structural problems, the more complicated a system is, the more so. But sometimes this can be solved in cooperation and sometimes it causes big problems.

Paynter explained that the company is still waiting for a declaration from the Ministry of Defense regarding the phase-out, but that it remains committed to the Ministry and wants to help in its realization. In addition to the domestic problems, there were also those with the U.S. corporation, if the failure was on the part of the Ministry of Defense.