The German Ministry of Defence has cancelled $2.5bn plans to purchase Northrop Grumman’s Triton reconnaissance drones and has instead opted to purchase manned Bombardier jets.

Germany was set to buy four MQ-4C Triton drones, in a purchase originally cleared by the US in 2018, to upgrade Germany’s airborne reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.

According to documents seen by Reuters, the German Ministry of Defence told German lawmakers that the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would not be delivered until 2025, and added that it feared the costs of the acquisition could not be fulfilled.

Responding to reports of the cancellation, a spokesperson for Northrop Grumman told Naval Technology: “Northrop Grumman is aware of reports the Bundeswehr plans to halt pursuit of the MQ-4C for the PEGASUS program.

“We remain confident Northrop Grumman’s high-altitude, long-endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, built on the legacy of the proven RQ-4 Global Hawk platform, offer our customers the best option for persistent ISR capability, and we will continue to work to meet their requirements.”

The 2025 deadline would have left the country unable to meet NATO obligations, which is understood to have played a large role in the decision to scrap the purchase.

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The system was expected to primarily be used for signals intelligence purposes, capturing adversaries’ transmissions. Instead, this role now looks to be filled by military variant manned Bombardier Global 6000 jets.

Germany is understood to have been concerned about the ability of the UAVs to operate in civilian airspace where the manned bombardier aircraft are allowed to operate.

The MQ-4C Triton now scrapped by Germany was set to be a modified version of the in-service US Navy Triton system carrying an indigenous German payload specialised for signals intelligence missions.

The cancelling of the Triton purchase marks the second time a German intelligence UAV project has faltered after in 2013; Germany cancelled the ‘Euro Hawk’ project to procure the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk to fulfil a similar mission.

NATO currently operates a fleet of Global Hawks based in Italy. However, the aircraft are restricted in how they can operate in European airspace due to air traffic rules.

The new Global 6000 jets are set to carry the same ISR equipment as the Triton UAVs.