Germany's Euro Hawk unmanned air vehicle is due to make its first test flight in the nation's airspace late this year, with industry partners Northrop Grumman and Cassidian working through a longer-than-expected process to secure preliminary airworthiness certification approvals.
The certification process is "probably the biggest challenge in the programme" to field the Northrop RQ-4 Global Hawk derivative, says Jim Kohn, the company's Euro Hawk programme director. "In the US it was a system-level certification, but for Germany it's all the way down to the box level. It's a painfully detailed approach."
A development example of the unmanned surveillance asset was flown to Manching, near Munich from the USA in July 2011, and was rolled out at the test site in October 2011. Work to install its Cassidian integrated signals intelligence system payload was completed in February this year, with another recent milestone being a first taxi trial performed in June.
"The aircraft and payload are integrated and ready for the next phase of flight testing," Kohn says. "We are targeting a flight towards the end of the year."
Once launched, the test programme will comprise 15 flights in an area around Manching, and over the North Sea. "We have all the test scenarios agreed with the customer and the test teams trained," says Axel Schwarz, Cassidian's chief engineer for the signals intelligence payload.
The UAV will then be transferred to Schleswig-Jagel air base and delivered to the German air force following a customer acceptance flight.
Meanwhile, talks are under way over Germany's planned acquisition of four series production Euro Hawks and a second ground control station, as part of an overall programme worth €1.2 billion ($1.5 billion).
"We don't have any doubts about the performance of this aircraft," says Rüdiger Knöpfel, director of HALE/MALE UAV systems for Germany's Federal Office of Defence Technology and Procurement.