FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) - European aerospace and defence group EADS
Germany scrapped the plans to purchase and modify Euro Hawk reconnaissance drones because of the cost of meeting standards required to win aviation approval.
A resulting row over whether taxpayers' money has been squandered has dominated German media and also threatens to tarnish the reputation of Thomas de Maiziere, defence minister and one of Chancellor Angela Merkel's most trusted cabinet members, just four months before an election.
The makers said in a joint statement on Monday that they would continue to work with the customer to address any concerns.
"The team will provide an affordable and achievable plan to complete flight testing of the initial asset and the eventual production and fielding of the full system of four additional aircraft," they said.
They described reports of problems with the aircraft's flight control system and excessive costs of completing the airworthiness certification as "inaccurate".
Internal government documents put the additional costs of getting the airworthiness approval at around 500 million-600 million euros ($647-$776 million), without any guarantee that approval would be achieved.
The defense ministry declined to comment on the statement from EADS and Northrop Grumman.
German armed forces already have one prototype Euro Hawk and were considering whether to buy an additional four drones. Germany had earmarked 1.2 billion euros for the purchase and development of the aircraft. ($1 = 0.7729 euros)
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan, Sabine Siebold and Michelle Martin; Editing by David Cowell)