Germany to clear up mystery over scraping of drone project
Berlin: Faced with allegations of a cover up, German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere has pledged to clear up the mystery surrounding the government`s decision to scrap the "Euro Hawk" drone project of the armed forces and to take the necessary consequences.
In his first comments since the opposition accused him of withholding information on the ill-fated project from Parliament, de Maiziere said he had set up three working groups to investigate the circumstances, which led to the government`s decision and to evaluate all data on the project.
He will present a detailed report to the defence committee of the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament, on June 5, he said in a statement.
The defence ministry stopped the "Euro Hawk" project after investing around $835 million to build a prototype of the unmanned reconnaissance aircraft on the ground that it will not get the flight permission in Europe as it lacked the necessary instruments on board to avoid a collision.
The ministry refused to invest another $780 million to install the "sense and avoid system" on board and also cancelled its order for four additional drones at a cost of $676 million.
Referring to the criticism that the federal accounting office, which has been auditing the Euro Hawk project since the beginning of last year, was denied access to the documents it had asked for and in some cases provided only incomplete documents by the ministry, de Maiziere said the office will be given full access to all documents concerning the project.
The minister said he has ordered a review of Germany`s participation in the NATO`s global Hawk project in the light of the country`s decision to terminate the Euro Hawk project.
Several leading politicians of the ruling centre-right coalition and the opposition parties have demanded the government to put on hold the global Hawk project until it is certain that it will not have the same fate of the German version of the reconnaissance aircraft.
The Free Democratic Party (FDP), a junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel`s coalition, has joined the opposition parties in demanding government to freeze the global Hawk project.
In the wake of the Euro Hawk debacle, the FDP wants to make sure that more taxpayers` money will not be wasted on this project, the party`s budget affairs spokesman Juergen Koppelin said.
Therefore, the FDP wants to freeze further investments in the global Hawk project until it is confirmed that it will get the flight permission in Europe, he said in a TV interview.
Germany`s share of investments in the NATO project is estimated to be around $520 million, according to media reports. Both versions of the reconnaissance aircraft are built by the US aerospace company Northrop Grumman.
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