Following the approval of the Bundestag, the German Army procures 65 new reconnaissance drones. These are also to be allowed to fly over densely populated areas. This is an absolute novelty.
The German Army is buying a new medium-range drone system. The Bundeswehr’s procurement office signed a contract to this effect with Rheinmetall on Thursday. It was only on 20 September that the Budget Committee in the Bundestag cleared the way for the deal.
The arms company is marketing the drone under the name “Luna NG”, the abbreviation standing for “next generation”. The predecessor manufactured by the company EMT has already been in service with the Bundeswehr for 20 years and was also exported to Saudi Arabia for border surveillance.
With the takeover of EMT, Rheinmetall re-entered the drone business in 2021 after a few years’ break. The bankrupt, medium-sized company was almost sold to a competitor from Israel. Rheinmetall had announced its intention to retain all four EMT sites in Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein with their approximately 200 employees.
In total, the Army plans to procure 65 new Luna drones. These consist of twelve series and one training system with five drones each, two ground control stations and two launch vehicles. As with the predecessor model, they will land in a stretched net. However, some models will also have propellers for vertical take-off-landing.
The first Luna drones are to be delivered to the army from 2025. There, they will operate as a “highly efficient unmanned system for medium-range imaging reconnaissance” (Husar). They are to replace the unarmed “small aircraft target localisation” (KZO), which is also getting on in years and which Rheinmetall sold to the Army in 2004.
The Luna drones have a wingspan of over five metres and a maximum take-off weight of around 110 kilograms. The Army can equip them either with surveillance sensors or with systems to jam enemy radio waves. Rheinmetall recently showed the drone with armament for the first time at an arms fair in London. There they each carried a missile under their wings.
With a range of up to 150 kilometres and a flight duration of twelve hours, the Luna drones can penetrate deep into enemy territory. Reportedly, they can be deployed in almost all climatic conditions. Rheinmetall also exports the systems to Ukraine, this gift being paid for by the Ministry of Defence.
Soon, the Luna drones will also receive a type certificate from the German Armed Forces Aviation Office. Then the drones could be used for training purposes in Germany, even over densely populated areas. This would be the first permission of this kind; until now, the operation of such large drones has only been permitted in restricted areas. For good reason: several dozen of the predecessor model of the “Luna NG” have already crashed.
The army’s special forces are also receiving new drones. On Tuesday, the Bundeswehr procurement office signed a contract with the German company Quantum Systems for this purpose; delivery is to begin in a year. The order is for 14 drones of the type “Vector”, which are equipped with three swivelling propellers. This makes the systems independent of take-off devices or runways.
This “remotely operated reconnaissance system, airborne, short range” (Falke) is also being given away by the German government to Ukraine, but in much larger numbers. Allegedly, the manufacturer has received orders for the delivery of a total of 400 vector drones. Rheinmetall is also said to have applied for the order.
Compared to Husar, however, the range of the Falke system is significantly shorter at 30 kilometres. Its advantages lie in its deployment, which is supposed to be achieved within three minutes without tools. The manufacturer specifies a maximum flight time of three hours. This drone can also be used in all climatic zones.
Published in German in „nd“.