UIn order to achieve modern air-to-ground reconnaissance, Germany’s armed forces have long dreamed of high-flying IMINT drones for optical reconnaissance. IMINT stands for “Imagery Intelligence”. For this purpose, the purchase of up to four drones of the largest HALE class was planned; based on the American Global Hawk system. Corresponding plans became known in 2012. The military planners reckoned with 566 million euros for the implementation.
The Bundeswehr has now given up on this project. This resulted in a request from the Left Bundestag member Andrej Hunko to the Ministry of Defense. The concept envisaged supplementing the upcoming NATO ground surveillance with the IMINT drones as a “national provision”. The installation of this “Alliance Ground Surveillance” – AGS for short – with Global Hawk drones of the Block 40 variant is in the final stages. The last of five drones were recently transferred to the Italian air force base in Sigonella in Sicily. Commissioning should take place at the end of this year, but has been delayed until the following year due to the corona pandemic. For 2022, NATO plans with the full readiness of AGS.
In this phase, when AGS goes into operation, the Bundeswehr wanted to make a final decision about its own IMINT drones. Procurement should then take place from 2023. “There are neither NATO demands nor national plans to provide AGS with their own high-flying HALE drones,” says the defense ministry’s reply to FAZ.NET. At AGS itself, Germany is the NATO country with the largest participation after the United States – around 500 million euros have flowed to date. The Ministry of Defense did not provide any information on the reasons for not using the IMINT drones. The left-wing MP Andrej Hunko welcomes the task of the project. As part of AGS, this would have been directed unilaterally against Russia. In addition, the waiver saved the Bundeswehr from another billion grave.
Indeed, since the beginning of the 2000s, the German Armed Forces have been unsuccessfully investing hundreds of millions in equipping themselves with high-flying HALE drones for modern air-to-ground reconnaissance. At the beginning of the year, Germany’s armed forces had to bury their “Pegasus” drone project. Here too, the Bundeswehr wanted to procure four HALE drones; this time for signal reconnaissance – “Signal Intelligence”, abbreviation SIGINT. A Global Hawk derivative was planned for this – the Triton drone. The finished SIGINT reconnaissance module is now to be used in small Global 6000 business jets.
Rising costs as a reason?
According to the official account, rising costs are the reason for the termination of the “Pegasus” project. In addition, Germany would not have been able to meet the promised NATO requirement for initial qualification from 2025. “Pegasus” has been running since 2014. In the previous year, the previous project “Euro Hawk” for the procurement of Global Hawk drones for SIGINT failed, also due to an increase in costs. It turned out that approval of the drone according to Bundeswehr guidelines would have cost another 500 million euros. The project had already been running for more than a decade. From 2000 onwards, Germany’s armed forces bought the Global Hawk drone.
In the previous year, the Bundeswehr had been sensitively shown its inability to compile a comprehensive picture of the situation for its operations. In the 1999 Kosovo War, the Germans relied on American technology such as satellites. When their tornadoes attacked, the German Armed Forces had to trust that the Americans’ choice of targets complied with German rules of engagement. Since this experience, the Bundeswehr has been eager to improve its own reconnaissance skills using HALE drones.