German Platform Decisions: Pegasus versus Global 6000 Special Mission Aircraft


By Robbin Laird

As I suggested in the lead article in this series on how to evaluate platform choices in the context of evolving needs and concepts of operations, too often, a simple platform versus platform presentation is made which confuses rather than clarifies what the tactical and strategic implications of that particular platform choice might be.

Germany is facing a number of such platform choices, and in the second article in the series, I addressed the face-off between the CH-53k and the Chinook and what this choice means for the evolution of the German armed forces.

I concluded in that article: The FCAS enabled part is also crucial for Germany.

The FCAS approach is forward leaning and ultimately rests on shaping the networks which enable an integratable force.

It is not about simply building a replacement combat aircraft; it is about building out a system of networks which can able an integratable force to work effectively together. Simply buying legacy systems and leaving networked capabilities to show up in a future FCAS really misses the point; integratability has to be built in which it clearly is with the CH-53K.

 It is a down payment on building out the kind of networked force Germany has committed itself too with its FCAS commitment.

Put in other terms, platform choices should be considered as well from the vantage point of whether or not that platform choice advances the integratable force able to move rapidly to the point of attack or defense or not. 

 From this standpoint the choice is clear:

The Chinook represents the Cold War past; the CH-53K the future of the integratable force.

With the shaping of a new force structure within the context of the current and projected security context for Germany, it makes sense that each new platform or program be made with regard to where Germany is headed in terms of its 21st century strategic situation, and not be limited by the thinking of the inner-German defense period.

In the next part of the series, I will begin an assessment of a more difficult platform comparison to make because it really is a system versus a system built around a platform.

And I will do so in a series of articles which will examine different aspects how these two choices might be compared in terms of their contributions and implications to shaping Germany strategy and capabilities for Germany and the defense of its interests.

On the one hand, the Germany military has focused on the importance of developing and deploying a remotely piloted solution to provide for its national signals intelligence needs. After terminating the Euro Hawk program, Germany’s Chief of Defense (CHOD), General Wieker, signed the Auswahlentscheidung (AWE) program on 6 Mar 17 for Triton as the “preferred solution” for Germany’s Airborne SIGINT mission.

Three MQ-4D PEGASUS air vehicles were envisaged to provide capability across the full range of German military missions – including strategic SIGINT, Indications & Warning, peacetime surveillance, and crisis management for sovereign or NATO operations.

The prime contractor for this program is Northrop Grumman, which has delivered Triton to the US Navy and has worked with Airbus to deliver a German sovereign set of payloads for the Pegasus which stands for Persistent German Airborne Surveillance System.

The two companies worked together on a feasibility study which concluded that the Airbus ISIS 2.0 payload is fully compatible with Triton and was fully mission integration capable with the Triton air vehicle.

The objective of the Pegasus program is to deliver situational awareness to allow Germany to tailor military and diplomatic responses during peacetime and crisis.  PEGASUS is unarmed and would provide the strategic component of Germany’s and NATO’s SIGINT capability roadmap

Based on a 2017 request, the US Government offered a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) in August 2018 for a foreign military sales procurement. After one extension, the current LOA expired in late 2019, requiring MOD to update the LOR for a restated offer in 2020 which they have not done to date.

On the other hand, Germany is pursuing a manned special mission aircraft solution as an alternative to Pegasus.

This approach would be based on buying a fleet of Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft operating as a mission systems aircraft.  The focus of the mission systems would be upon signals intelligence purposes.

These are very different options with radically different implications for Germany’s capabilities and their approach their direct defense and how they will operate in support of allies.

What little exists in the open literature has focused solely on platform costs as a differentiator, but without considering operations costs, coverage or implications for the FCAS rework underway for Germany’s approach to force integration.

It is that comparison which I will focus on in the next articles comparing Pegasus to Global 6000.

The featured photo: Credit


Also, see the following:

Abandoning Pegasus?

Die Pegasus-Story