Hensoldt To Develop German Airborne Sigint Platform

Pegasus will use three converted Global 6000 business jet platforms to perform its Sigint mission.
Credit: Hensoldt

German defense electronics firm Hensoldt has been awarded a contract to develop, integrate and deliver Germany’s new Pegasus airborne signals intelligence (Sigint) capability. 

Pegasus—short for Persistent German Airborne Surveillance Systems—will see Hensoldt equip a trio of Bombardier Global 6000 business jet platforms with a Sigint system called Kalaetron, a development of the company’s Integrated Signal Intelligence System (ISIS) developed for the failed Eurohawk program. 

Hensoldt will act as prime contractor for the program while subcontractor Lufthansa Technik, based in Hamburg, is responsible for the procurement of the aircraft and their modification, including cabin conversion and system installation. 

Hensoldt said the program will involve some 30 companies based across Germany as suppliers and partners. 

The introduction of the Pegasus capability, planned for around 2026, will restore an airborne Sigint capability for the German armed forces after a capability gap of more than a decade following the retirement of the Breguet Atlantic platform. 

Contract signing, announced June 30, follows budgetary approvals by the German Parliament’s Budget and Defense Committees on June 23 for spending on 27 key defense programs, including €1.54 billion on the Pegasus program. 

“Kalaetron offers unique reconnaissance capabilities based on powerful German key technology,” said Celia Pelaz, Hensoldt head of strategy and chief of its spectrum dominance and airborne solutions division.

“Pegasus thus forms the core for a sovereign reconnaissance network and the basis for future capability development in the field of self-protection and electronic warfare,” Pelaz added. 

Germany’s defense materiel agency BAAINBw said the Pegasus contract also includes the delivery of training, evaluation, and a reference system for the development and testing of new capabilities. The first converted aircraft will be ready for operations in 2026 with final delivery planned for 2028.  

“The project ensures and promotes the maintenance of competence for national key technologies in accordance with the strategy paper of the federal government to strengthen the security and defense industry,” BAAINBw said. 

Defense officials have previously said the Global 6000 was selected because the aircraft was already being used by the air force in the VIP mission, enabling benefits in maintenance, training and the procurement of spare parts. 

With the Pegasus contract signing, German officials are hoping to put the saga of the country’s Sigint capability gap behind them. The Atlantics should have been replaced by the Eurohawk derivative of the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance uncrewed air system. 

Eurohawk was abandoned when Berlin was faced with a potential bill of up to half a billion euros to certify the platform to meet strict German airworthiness requirements, but not before the first aircraft was delivered. It now sits in storage at Manching in Bavaria. Berlin did consider adopting the MQ-4 Triton as an alternative, but ultimately decided to adopt the crewed Global 6000 instead. 

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.