German defense chief, a staunch Merkel ally, under fire for handling of failed drone program

Germany's defense minister is facing harsh criticism from lawmakers over a botched 600 million-euro ($800 million) program to develop unmanned surveillance drones.

Opposition parties say Thomas de Maiziere wasted public funds by canceling the program too late, despite compelling evidence earlier that the drones could not be approved for use in Europe's airspace.

For Chancellor Angela Merkel the controversy engulfing one of her staunchest allies is a major embarrassment only three months before national elections.

The minister told lawmakers Wednesday he was badly informed by his two deputies in charge of the program, adding he doesn't exclude "consequences for some personnel."

Germany purchased one prototype of the U.S.-made Global Hawk surveillance drone to modify to its specifications, but has now scrapped plans to buy four more for 1.4 billion euros.