German defence minister Thomas de Maizière accused of covering up bungled Euro Hawk drone project

 

Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Defence Minister was fighting for his political survival yesterday amid reports that his office tried to cover up a scandal over the bungled purchase of a multi-million surveillance drone which proved too dangerous to be flown in European air space.

Thomas de Maizière is regarded as one of Angela Merkel’s closest allies and has been tipped as her possible successor. But the 59-year-old conservative Defence Minister faced calls for his resignation yesterday as the scandal surrounding his ministry’s Euro Hawk surveillance drone project worsened.

“This is a case of  wasting money to an unimaginable degree,” said the opposition Social Democrat spokesman Thomas Oppermann in an interview in which he demanded the Defence Minister’s resignation. “Somebody has to take the political responsibility for this,” he added.

Mr de Maiziere stands accused of wasting €600m of taxpayers’ money by ordering  the Euro Hawk drone from the US manufacturer Northrop Grumman, only to establish – five years after signing the contract – that the European Aviation Safety Agency would not allow the drone to fly in Europe. Among other deficiencies, the Euro Hawk was found not to have a proper collision-avoidance system.

The affair deepened after it emerged that staff at the German army’s aircraft testing complex  at Manching in Bavaria were instructed last week to destroy computer files containing embarrassing details about the Euro Hawk. The “destroy” order was rescinded a day later. Der Spiegel magazine also revealed Germany’s military aircraft licensing authority in Koblenz had over the past week been instructed to classify all Euro Hawk information as “top secret”. “The armed forces appear to have tried to cover up important details,” the magazine wrote.

Mr de Maiziere will appear before a parliamentary committee tomorrow where he is expected to face a barrage of questions from MPs. Opposition parties have pledged to open a full committee of inquiry should his explanations prove inadequate.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral