BERLIN- The German parliament's budget committee on Wednesday approved a 3 billion euro ($3.59 billion) contract for the development of a European military drone to be built by Airbus, Dassault and Leonardo a parliamentary source said.
The German military will receive 21 drones, 12 ground control stations and four simulators from the joint project with France, Italy and Spain, with delivery expected to start in 2030, according to a separate defence source.
The new drones are supposed to eventually replace drones from Israel Aerospace Industries which Germany has leased and has been operating in military missions in Afghanistan and Mali.
The European drone will be technically capable to carry weapons but any such move would be conditional on the approval of the German parliament which only in December blocked a push to arm the drones currently leased by the German military.
With an expected length of more than 15 metres and a wingspan of 30 metres, the drone will be able to stay in flight for more than 24 hours at heights of around 13,000 metres to monitor the situation on the ground with sensors such as radars and infrared cameras.
($1 = 0.8365 euros)
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, editing by Emma Thomasson and Michael Nienaber) ((Sabine.Siebold@thomsonreuters.com; +49-30-2201-33574;))