The first of an eventual three-airframe fleet of Pegasus signals intelligence (SIGINT) spy aircraft for Germany has rolled out of Bomdardier Defense’s Wichita site in the US to begin its ground testing programme.

Bombardier’s Global 6000 business jet was selected for the Pegasus programme, which will see the integration of the Hensoldt Kalætron Integral SIGINT system and other sensors by Lufthansa Technik Defense in Hamburg, Germany, providing the country’s military with a new airborne surveillance capability.

In June 2021, Hensoldt was awarded a contract to supply an airborne system for electronic SIGINT on board three Bombardier jets based on its Kalætron Integral system, which collects and analyses military signals from radar and radio systems.

In a 5 June 2024 release, timed to coincide with the recent ILA Berlin airshow, Bombardier stated that since that award, Hensoldt, Lufthansa Technik Defense, and Bombardier had “collaborated closely on a joint design activity”.

At the end of 2023, Hensoldt’s overall mission system design passed customer acceptance and more recently saw the completion of extensive structural modification on the first airframe. Upon conclusion of initial ground and test flights at Bombardier’s US site, each aircraft will be transferred to Lufthansa Technik Defense’s facilities in Hamburg for further integration work.

Valued at over €1bn ($1.08bn), the Pegasus SIGINT programme sees Hensoldt acting as general contractor, bearing overall responsibility for project delivery, with Lufthansa Technik Defense acting as a subcontractor in procuring modified Global 6000 aircraft from Bombardier.

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Air domain focus for German acquisitions

Published in December 2023, GlobalData’s forecast of German defence spending indicated that the FY2023 budget stood at $51.2bn, representing about 1.3% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

However, Germany, as with many European countries, has been working to increase its defence spending to meet Nato’s 2% GDP target as ongoing ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continue to drive the defence narrative on the continent.

The Pegasus programme looks set to introduce an entirely new capability into the German Air Force with the three SIGINT airframes, an area that Germany has not traditionally been active.

Source: GlobalData

Much of Germany’s spending in recent years has centred on the air domain, having confirmed purchases of new tranches of the Eurofighter, including an electronic warfare variant, and the F-35A stealth fighter from Lockheed Martin.

GlobalData forecasts that Germany’s acquisition budget, which totalled $10.8bn in 2022, will not return to those levels until 2027 at the earliest, having seen a dip in 2023.