EADS and Northrop Grumman are stepping up their push for derivatives of the German air force’s Eurohawk high-altitude long-endurance signals intelligence UAV system to meet other European national requirements.
The two partners are also pushing imagery and maritime surveillance variants to meet emerging German requirements for expanded reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.
Germany stands to benefit, EADS argues, by using a common platform in fulfilling multiple mission requirements, rather than trying to support a number of different aircraft types.
Franz Bucher, EADS military aircraft marketing and sales director for UAV systems, says that while initially optimised to meet German SIGINT requirements, Eurohawk is now being positioned as a wide area stand-off surveillance asset.
“If you have such a highly sophisticated platform and system we have to consider what else can be done… There is consideration to have an extended imagery intelligence [IMINT] capability. An IMINT capability means that maybe we can integrate synthetic-aperture radar for this stand-off capability and maybe as well to have a maritime radar surveillance capability in there.”
The co-operation agreement between EADS and Northrop Grumman includes provisions for “joint marketing for the Eurohawk system for the European NATO countries, with some exceptions, but in principle we are now trying to market this idea. It is a new development; it is a good system now.”
Germany signed contracts on 31 January for the production of the first Eurohawk demonstrator, with this to be based on the Northrop RQ-4B Global Hawk airframe with an EADS sensor and ground exploitation suite.
Prime contractor for the project is the Eurohawk joint venture established between EADS and Northrop in late 2005. The demonstrator contract will see a single Eurohawk handed over to the German air force in 2010 for a 36-month evaluation phase. Production decisions for the remaining four aircraft, as a direct replacement for the German navy’s three Breguet BR1150 Atlantic SIGINT-gathering aircraft, are expected by 2011.
Northrop received foreign military sales contracts from the US Air Force on 18 May to produce five RQ-4B configuration airframes. Worth more than $370 million, the deal also covers the delivery of three mission control and launch and recovery elements. Initial allocations total $185 million.
The USAF is also supporting development of operational concepts for the German aircraft ahead of the evaluation phase.