“Loitering munitions” are considered a gamechanger in current wars. The German Army is therefore also examining two fixed-wing aircraft and a vertical take-off aircraft with a built-in explosive device.
Azerbaijan is said to have already used kamikaze drones en masse in the war of aggression on Arzakh, but these lethal weapons made their breakthrough on the battlefield on both sides in the war in Ukraine. There, they are said to have made a decisive contribution to the course of the battle. Now the Bundeswehr is also preparing to procure them. A study on the creation of a “research and technology roadmap” is to be completed this year. Andrej Hunko, a member of the Left Party in the German Bundestag, learned this from the German government after several parliamentary questions.
In the military, drones are known as “loitering munitions”. Depending on the model, they can circle over enemy territory for up to an hour, waiting for a favourable moment to attack. The target can be tracked independently in some models. Upon impact, the entire system is destroyed. Therefore, it is disputed among experts whether these are actually considered to be drones or rather intelligent, light artillery ammunition. They combine the advantages of both weapon systems.
“For the first time, the government admits to seriously dealing with this highly dangerous type of weapon,” says the questioner Hunko to “nd”. The plans to procure the kamikaze drones still date back to a Ministry of Defence led by the conservative Christian Democrats.
As early as 2021, the then Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn ( Christian Social Union, CSU) had announced plans for a “roadmap” for the army. The Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support in Manching is responsible for this. The contractor for the study on “loitering munitions” is the company AMDC GmbH, which first researched the systems available on the market.
Four weeks ago, State Secretary Thomas Hitschler ( Social Democratic Party, SPD) specified the planned procurement. According to this, AMDC has ordered three systems from different manufacturers “for further evaluation” on behalf of the Bundeswehr. They come from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and UVision Air, and thus all from Israeli companies. The Ministry of Defence does not give any details about the types. IAI builds the “Harop” fixed-wing aircraft, which is also used by the military in Azerbaijan. Uvision sells various models of its “Hero”, a projectile with four wings that automatically unfold after launch. Rafael, on the other hand, with its “FireFly” system, is the only supplier whose “loitering munitions” can be launched vertically.
Hunko asked the last question so far on the kamikaze drones on Wednesday in the Bundestag. The three models procured from Israel will be tested in 2024, the MP learned from Parliamentary State Secretary Siemtje Möller (SPD). Afterwards, the Ministry of Defence will decide on the final procurement. In order to promote domestic industry, the contract could be awarded to Uvision: The company cooperates with the arms manufacturer Rheinmetall, which wants to drop the loitering “Hero” from its flying drones or have it launched from its drone tanks.
Published in German in „nd“.