Euro Hawk is a no-go for the Bundeswehr

"Eine Milliarde Euro versenkt: Euro Hawk wird nicht zugelassen"
Marco Seliger, F.A.Z. (German newspaper article)

Northrop Grumman RQ-4, the base model for Euro Hawk
Long story short; the thing did cost a lot already, but our military bureaucracy should have been / was aware that it wouldn't be certified for flying in German airspace. Or the airspace of just about every other country. The lack of a collision avoidance system is apparently a key problem.

The article presents the technical and legal issues, the costs and summarises the very limited quantity of airframes meant to be procured.

It's missing some relevant info, though:

(a) The system cost per unit was in the league of the price for a fully equipped combat aircraft, a small warship, a tank battalion or a reconnaissance satellite.

(b) The platform was never even supposed to be survivable in a war between great powers, in a war where hostiles challenge NATO and force it into a defensive war. In other words; the project was useless for the constitutional mission of the Bundeswehr, which makes it even more difficult to justify it in a cost/benefit guesstimate.

(c) The Bundeswehr has also botched its other major drone procurement program, SAATEG. Michael Förster, the late "Mr. Geopowers", chronicled this mess in about a dozen articles. The late Cold War-era drone projects were also a huge mess (KZO/Brevel, which took a quarter century, for example). Only the very small drone projects appear to be a kind of success (Mikado, Luna).

(d) The pet project that kind of preceded the Euro hawk project (LAPAS, early 90's) was a mess, too. It involved extremely high-flying motor gliders of the company Grob. The project collapsed when it got involved in a corruption scandal. Again, the slow & high altitude & high endurance approach looked usable for peacetime electronic sniffing, and useless for wartime use.

It appears that the procurement bureaucracy in general is a mess. This is but one example; there are many. Naval procurement projects have had the smell of shipyard subsidising for a long time, but it also turned towards ship types that are largely useless for collective defence (K130 = patrol ship without a helicopter and F125 = oversized patrol ship claimed to be a frigate, but armed like a missile boat).
Luftwaffe procurement is no more impressive (just look at the MEADS project with its substantial development costs for tiny numbers planned). Heer procurement isn't impressive either. The de-standardisation of armoured trucks was so extreme, I can't even recall how many up-armoured versions of the Wolf/ Mercedes G wagon exist. They saw the problem as well and responded with a standardisation program - on top of the inventory, instead of for replacing it! And of course they included a light protected vehicle category which proved to be physically impossible with known technology. The LeFlaSys and mortar projects are about such ludicrously small quantities that their frustration potential even exceeds their comedic potential.

So basically, the Bundeswehr is only occasionally good at managing procurement projects. Its readiness to enter not only procurement, but also development projects for a projected quantity of platforms below 20 is astonishing and can only be described as disproportionate. That's wasting of taxpayer money.

Times of tight budgets should in theory motivate the bureaucracy to focus on the activities with the best pay-off. Sadly, the bureaucracy's interests and national interests are so very much out of synch that this effect is not working to our advantage now. Nor has it for the last two decades.

The problem is not with the bureaucrats; they're what they are, even if they think of themselves as soldiers first. Bureaucrats behave as bureaucrats almost without exceptions.

The problem is the weak political oversight. The civilian leadership was mostly either disinterested or weak (an accurate description for many of the past ten years). As of now, I have not learned about anything that would indicate to me that the current minister is different and really working on getting the military bureaucracy in line with national interests. In fact, I don't even think he's trying hard to do get it in line with what he himself perceives as national interest (= involves great power games than I think are in our national interest).

The military bureaucracy is running on autopilot, and the billion bucks wasted on drones that are apparently not even allowed to take-off is but one symptom. It is a classic principal-agent problem with the principal not doing his oversight job thoroughly.


P.S.: Obviously, I'm not trying to cozy up to the establishment and get government contracts. Having worked on some in non-defence topics made me thoroughly disinterested in working for the government ever again. The biggest such project slowly chipped away parts of my soul, being almost entirely a waste of taxpayer money in favour of a clique which had hijacked part of a federal ministry's bureaucracy.

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