Intelligence and Terrorism News
Berlin sources confirm German interest in unmanned jet fighter
Feb 14, 2006, 13:03 GMT
Berlin - Europe's main aerospace company is well advanced in a secret project to build a tiny but lethal unmanned fighter aircraft, sources in the German capital Berlin confirmed Tuesday.
While the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) shows an artists' impression of the plane, apparently jet-powered, on its website, it has refused to discuss the project, which is code-named Barracuda, and very little information has filtered out.
Last month, the German news magazine Der Spiegel said the unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) had been shown to the head of the German air force and would make its maiden flight somewhere in a remote part of the Iberian Peninsula this month.
The defence industry sources confirmed that report.
The testbed plane is a reconnaissance drone with no attack capabilities, but EADS is believed to be looking to develop a plane that could take on many of the tasks of existing fighter-bombers such as the all-weather Tornado attack plane used by European air forces.
Spiegel said Germany has still not actually ordered the Barracuda, and EADS was developing the plane mainly from its own funds, though it had received a small sum from the Swiss armed forces for the research.
It said the prototype was shown to Lieutenant-General Klaus-Peter Stieglitz of the German air force last month at Manching, near Munich, where EADS is building the Eurofighter manned fighter plane.
The Barracuda would be entirely remote controlled, with sophisticated computers on board to operate its systems.
The idea has already been demonstrated by a U.S. drone, the Predator, which is primarily for reconnaissance but has been armed with Hellfire missiles and has reportedly fired them at terrorists in secret operations by the CIA.
EADS is eager to enter a business that is currently dominated by the United States and Israel, Spiegel said.
On its website, EADS said its UCAV work was part of the European Technology Acquisition Programme (ETAP), with France, Britain, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Germany participating in a joint study on the technologies required for systems demanded for the year 2020.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur