An unintentionally funny AP story appeared in the international financial pages yesterday but, oddly, the mainstream media in Canada has not picked it up.
The story, dateline Berlin, claims that Germany is looking to sell Canada a used surveillance drone—the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk (pictured above)—but that no one in either government is willing to talk about the deal on the record. That’s because the drone is a lemon. Built almost twenty years ago, in 2000, the aircraft has cost the German government more than €700 million ($823 million) in hardware, software and test-related expenses—and it still cannot meet the standard for European certification.
The comical bit is that, although the drone reportedly comes with some “spare parts,” it has been wiped clean of the operating software required to fly it. “Without GPS navigation and in particular without flight control systems,” German defence reporter Thomas Wiegold told AP, “the drone would hardly be able to fly.” German parliamentarian Andrej Hunko, who has been privy to some of the diplomatic correspondence relating to the proposed sale, added that the aircraft now has only “scrap value.”
Three questions emerge. What would Canadians want with this clunker? What would we do with it? And what’s it going to cost us?