The Luftwaffe’s efforts to renew its airborne signals intelligence capabilities have moved one step closer to realization with the first flight of the Euro Hawk unmanned aircraft.
The Euro Hawk, a derivative of the Global Hawk Block 20 the U.S. Air Force has bought, flew on June 29 from 10:32 a.m. to 12:24 a.m. local time from Palmdale to Edwards AFB, Calif. where the initial check outs are taking place. The air vehicle reached 32,000 ft.
(credit: Northrop Grumman)
The air vehicle features distinctive sigint pods, although the EADS-developed electronic sensor suite will not be installed until the air vehicle makes it to Germany before year-end. The pods bring a 10% drag penalty over the Block 20 configuration.
The German air force should receive the Euro Hawk in 2011 for demonstration and trials to enable a procurement decision for additional systems.
Germany had been relying on the Atlantique 2 for signals intelligence gathering, but the last of those are being phased out this year.
The event is a big milestone for the Luftwaffe and also some good news for Northrop Grumman, which has come under fire at the Pentagon for Global Hawk costs.
Furthermore, the company suffered a setback on the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance program with Denmark's defection owing to budget pressures. That step is not fatal to AGS, though, says a NATO official, although, he warns, the departure of a major contributing alliance country could be.