News magazine Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday it had seen a 17-page dossier saying that Germany was likely to have to pay significantly more than initially agreed for the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) - to plug a financial gap left by other countries who have backed out of the Nato project.
The dossier also says that German armed forces are expected to spend €260 million on up to four of its own unmanned drones in order to ensure the AGS capabilities.
And although costs to the German budget are spiralling, the government is determined to support the concept, which is described as of “paramount significance” for military-political and operative considerations, the dossier says.
Germany will do, “everything possible to contribute to its success,” it continues, according to Der Spiegel.
Nato defence ministers finally reached a compromise over the AGS project this spring, with German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziére calling the drones pioneering.
They are due to be presented as the perfect example of smart defence policies at the Nato summit in Chicago later this month – along with the idea that cooperation in buying defence capabilities will lead to greater force with less money.
The idea for AGS dates back to 2007, Der Spiegel said, when eight Global Hawk drones were planned. These giant drones are as big as a commercial plane and are packed full of surveillance equipment.
At the time 17 Nato nations said they would contribute to the financing, with the US and Germany signing up to pay two thirds of the €1.2 billion needed.
But since then Turkey, Poland, Denmark and Canada have dropped out, citing budgetary shortfalls. The project was downgraded to just five Global Hawks – and as the dossier now makes clear, at one point the entire AGS project was written off by German politicians. Delays have also contributed to an increase in the cost – to nearly €1.5 billion.
Germany will now face a bill of €483 million – around a third of the whole cost – rather than the original contribution of €400 million.
Nato military bosses say they desperately need the new system – after having to admit that airborne operations over Libya were almost completely dependent on American surveillance drones and planes.