BERLIN, (BM) – The German government has cancelled plans for a $2.5 billion contract to acquire Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton heavyweight high endurance surveillance drones, instead opting for the manned Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft which is also capable of performing signals intelligence, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
This comes after a Global Hawk surveillance drone, from which the Triton is closely derived, was shot down by Iranian air defences in June 2019, and follows concerns that the drones would be unable to meet the safety standards needed to flying through European airspace.
A major factor in Germany’s decision was that the Triton drones had become “significantly more expensive” than initially estimated – according to officials – with the aircraft costing over $180 million each making them more than twice as expensive as Lockheed Martin’s new F-35A stealth fighters.
Germany initially planned to develop a high performance signals intelligence drone under the Eurohawk program – a specialised derivative of the RQ-4 Global Hawk with customised sensor suite – but the program’s termination in May 2013 left the country’s Air Force with a lagging capability in the field.
The U.S. State Department in April 2018 cleared a German request to purchase the Triton, but new restrictions on drones’ ability to fly alongside civilian traffic – forcing them to keep to drone specific airspace corridors – made a manned aircraft preferable.
Australia is the only country to have confirmed an order for the Triton, with the aircraft entering service in 2018 and 68 jets currently planned. Sales to Germany would have reduced the cost per unit of acquiring the aircraft, benefitting all clients, and could have potentially had a knock on effect of gaining increased foreign interest from other possible clients.
The drone has been strongly marketed to India, with the British Armed Force reportedly also showing interest in the aircraft.
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Source: Military Watch