ROBOTICS AND AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS
Northrop Grumman Still Hoping for Reversal of Euro Hawk Cancelation
Despite the cancelation of Germany’s Euro Hawk unmanned air vehicle program in May, Northrop Grumman isn’t throwing in the towel just yet. Company officials continue to discuss with the German government potential ways to salvage the program, said the president of the firm's aerospace systems.
European laws governing air space — and not the capability of the UAV itself — are preventing the Euro Hawk’s adoption, said Tom Vice during an Aug. 20 news conference.
"We believe it’s the right vehicle for the Germans. We think that the technologies associated with the entire system, the vehicle, the sensor ... [are] right,” he said. “The challenge is understanding how to operate it in German air space, and so we believe that the need is still there.”
The Euro Hawk is the first international version of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, which is flown by the U.S. Air Force for surveillance missions. The German air force planned to buy four drones before the government abandoned the program amidst concerns that it wasn’t certifiable under International Civil Aviation Organization standards.
The Euro Hawk’s cancellation has ignited a firestorm of scandal and criticism in Germany. The country's parliament in July conducted an investigation into the failure of the $875 million program, and
Defense Minister Thomas de Maizier has faced calls to step down from his post, reported German news outlet Deutsche Welle.
Northrop officials, however, are hoping the German government can be persuaded to rethink the cancellation.
“We don’t think that it's time to give up. We think that they have a good answer, a good team, a good solution, and so we're continuing to provide options,” Vice said. “They're considering them, and we just have to work our way through them."
"The Euro Hawk is continuing to make great progress,” he continued, noting that the aircraft last week completed one of its longest flights by operating more than 25 hours in European airspace.
Germany’s ministry of defense awarded Northrop Grumman a contract for the Euro Hawk in 2007, according to company information. Northrop was tasked with building the Euro Hawk vehicle, which is bigger than its U.S. cousin. EADS subsidiary Cassidian manufactured its signal intelligence sensors.
Despite the problems in Germany, the company still sees immense potential to sell UAVs to the international market, Vice said. He pointed to Australia, Japan and South Korea specifically as potential customers for unmanned systems.
On the domestic side, the Global Hawk program is mired in its own problems. That UAV has come under fire from its Air Force operators as being too costly, and the service has proposed putting the Block 30 model fleet in storage.
However, Northrop Grumman is trying to drive down the cost per flight hour, Vice said. "The Global Hawk program today has 97 percent of its life still in front of us. It’s a maturing program. … If you look over the last several years we think we have been making great strides in bringing the cost of that system down."