Germany puts MALE and Advanced UAV work on hold

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Germany has emerged as a doubtful partner in a three-nation European Advanced Unmanned Air Vehicle development project, after the country's defence minister raised questions about the risk that the project would not be completed successfully.

At Paris, EADS Defence and Security unveiled a full-scale scale model of the twinjet-powered fixed-wing aircraft for a modular intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance missions, but Germany's federal ministry of defence state secretary Rudiger Wolf has told his French and Spanish colleagues involved in the project that, for Germany, Advanced UAV would not progress for now.

"Wolf indicated to his partners in France and Spain that he sees at the moment no possibility to go on with the Advanced UAV. But I think we will talk about it," said the ministry of defence's air staff assistant branch chief, Lt Col Eberhard Knolker.

Wolf had not been satisfied that the level of risk for the project's successful completion was small enough. Knolker added that there was a "good open discussion" between industry and the ministry during risk-reduction work. EADS received a 15-month €60 million ($92.6 million) risk reduction contract for the feasibility study from Germany's BWB procurement agency in December 2007.

Germany has also conducted a medium-altitude long-endurance UAV competition but without a result. Contenders were the General Atomics Predator B and the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron TP. Knolker said that while the competition was not technically finished there would be no decision by Wolf.

The indefinite hiatus for Advanced UAV and non-decision for the MALE competition means Germany's future strategic UAV capability will consist of Eurohawk during the next decade, the German army's assorted target acquisition UAVs and the forthcoming Schiebel helicopter for the navy.

But the German roadmap calls for an "interim solution" in 2010 that would then be replaced by an initial capability by 2014 for tactical missions. But Knolker is sceptical that the 2010 target could be achieved. He admitted that the ministry would still be defining the initial solution's military requirements for months to come.