Germany’s defense minister faces a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday into a failed 600 million-euro ($800 million) program to develop unmanned surveillance drones.
Thomas de Maizière is up against criticism for not pulling the program sooner.
The defense ministry signed a contract with the Euro Hawk GmbH corporation in 2007 to begin work on the drone. A test flight on July 20, 2011 was hailed as a success. According to broadcasting service Deutsche Welle (DW), however, the drone had reportedly deviated from its route. De Maizière had discovered later that year that obtaining European air permits would cost an additional 500 t0 600 million euros, reports DW.
The July 20 flight had taken place in a restricted area with a temporary permit.
Development continued until May of this year, when the minister ended the project. Reasons reportedly include the costs of permitting and that the Euro Hawk does not have an anti-collision system.
De Maizière remains committed to the NATO drone program, and to acquiring five high-altitude drones, he said at a NATO meeting Tuesday, according to DW.
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The minister told lawmakers Wednesday he was badly informed by his two deputies in charge of the program, adding he doesn’t exclude “consequences for some personnel.” For Chancellor Angela Merkel the controversy is a major embarrassment three months before national elections. De Maizière is a great ally of hers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.