Despite the demands of Operation Enduring Freedom, Northrop Grumman and its German partner the European Aeronautic, Defence and Space (EADS) Company Deutschland confidently expect to deploy a testbed Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Germany no later than April 2003.

Forming part of the Euro Hawk pre-development programme, the testbed will be equipped with an EADS sourced signals intelligence (SIGINT) payload and will be operated from the Marineflieger (German Naval Air Arm) base at Nordholz in north western Germany.

Here, Marineflieger SIGINT operators will evaluate the payload/UAV package as to its suitability as a replacement for the service's existing Peace Peek manned SIGINT aircraft.

To this end, EADS has already delivered a space model of its SIGINT payload to Northrop Grumman for compatibility trials with the UAV's airframe and that an operational prototype will begin engineering validation flight testing (from Edwards Air Force Base, California) during the third or fourth quarter of 2002.

If successful, the overall test effort could result in the signature of a formal Euro Hawk development contract by late 2003, with development proper starting during the following year.