Europeans still hope to demonstrate UAV in German airspace despite lack of aircraft caused by US war preparations

EADS believes there is still a realistic chance that a Northrop Grumman RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle (UAV) equipped with the European manufacturer's electronic intelligence (ELINT) payload can be demonstrated in German airspace before the end of this year.

Plans for the deployment have been postponed indefinitely due to the lack of available aircraft as the US Air Force prepares for war in the Gulf (Flight International, 11-17 March).

"We haven't stopped any preparation," says Thomas Enders, EADS executive vice-president and head of the company's Defence and Civil Systems division. "We hope to have these trials later this year. Meanwhile we are doing whatever we can to replace the live demonstration in German airspace," he adds.

The ELINT package is being developed as part of an EADS/Northrop Grumman EuroHawk proposal to meet a German requirement for a long-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability, comprising an airborne platform and ground stations. Germany wants to replace its Dassault Atlantic signals intelligence aircraft from 2008.

EuroHawk will be a key part of the EADS/NorthropGrumman bid for NATO's Airborne Ground Surveillance requirement, for which they plan to bid in partnership with Thales and Finmeccanica against BAE Systems/Raytheon.

Enders says EADS aims to compensate for the delay to the "politically important" German airspace demonstration by conducting more flight trials at Edwards AFB, California, and by test-flying sensors on manned platforms.

He plays down any damage to the company's relationships with its US partners or the US Department of Defense caused by France and Germany's political rift with the USA over Iraq. "Frankly, I don't think it will have an impact," he says. "Up to now there have been no indications. We think rationality will prevail."

Defence and Civil Systems met its promise to eliminate losses in 2002 and managed a better than expected profit after France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK signed up for development and initial production of the MBDA-led Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile. "This meant we didn't have to write off pre-financing," says Enders.

Source: Flight International