Germany has cancelled its planned €1 billion ($1.3 billion) procurement of five Northrop Grumman Euro Hawk unmanned air vehicles, citing significant barriers to certificating the type for flights in civil airspace.
The country's defence ministry said on 15 May that the programme faced "significant certification difficulties", which made it impossible to operate the high-altitude, long-endurance type "reliably and without [safety] concerns".
A full-scale demonstrator of the RQ-4 Global Hawk-derived type was delivered to Manching air base, near Munich, for test flights in 2011. If these had proved successful, Germany planned to buy four additional Euro Hawks for its air force.
However, the trials revealed problems with the aircraft's flight control system and Northrop declined to share technical data to enable the German certification authorities to better understand the aircraft, says the defence ministry.
The German government says it has spent some €562 million on the project so far, including €54 million on test flights. However, it expects to be able to use Cassidian-developed surveillance equipment costing €250 million on another, likely manned, platform.
Germany is quick, however, to reiterate its support for UAVs and says it plans to use reconnaissance and armed types in future.