Northrop Grumman’s long courtship with Germany’s requirement for a high-altitude unmanned air system took another step toward a contract on 5 February.

The US State Department approved a potential sale of four MQ-4C Tritons to Germany, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced on 5 April.

The approval allows Northrop to export the high-altitude surveillance aircraft, but doesn’t mean Germany has committed to sign a contract.

The DSCA notification says the full package, including a ground control station, spares and support, is worth $2.5 billion.

Germany would acquire a modified version of the MQ-4C configuration that Northrop has developed for the US Navy, but the notice doesn’t list the changes.

The USN’s version of the aircraft comes with several major sensors, including Northrop’s multi-function airborne system (MFAS) radar, a camera-based targeting system and electronic support measures.

In 2000, Germany launched a programme to acquire a high-altitude UAV for electronic surveillance. Northrop delivered one “Euro Hawk” aircraft to Germany, using an RQ-4B Global Hawk airframe and an Airbus sensor payload. But the Germany cancelled the Euro Hawk programme due to financing and airspace integration problems.

The Australian government also plans to buy the MQ-4C for the maritime surveillance mission in the Pacific and Indian oceans.