Following a crash in August, Frontex is monitoring the Mediterranean in Greece again with a new military drone from Israel. A first flight is scheduled for this evening. The recovery of the wreckage remains impossible.
Almost four months after the crash of a drone in the South East of Crete, Frontex has resumed unmanned surveillance in Greece. This was confirmed by a spokeswoman at the request of “nd”. The first flight was thus scheduled for Tuesday evening.
Frontex uses the drone from Israel to monitor the Ionian Sea between Crete and Italy. This “Heron 1” is stationed at Tympaki Airport in the south of Crete. The drone has received authorisation and identification from the Greek military for operations in civilian airspace.
The framework contract worth €50 million for flights, maintenance work and repairs with the “Heron 1” is being handled by the Bremen-based defence division of Airbus. The defence company is also responsible for the procurement of the military drone from the manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). This is the second such deployment: Airbus has also been stationing an IAI military reconnaissance drone on Malta for two years on behalf of Frontex.
The flights that have now resumed on Crete are being carried out with a new aircraft, known internally at Frontex as “Heron 2”. The Greek authorities had tried to salvage the wreckage of the crashed predecessor, but this had not been possible. This was confirmed by the head of Frontex, Hans Leijtens, last week in an answer to a question from left-wing MEP Özlem Demirel.
According to Leijtens, the EU border agency had been working with Airbus on a “reliable recovery plan” for the continuation of the operation on Crete. He did not answer the question about the cause of the accident. “According to the contractor’s communication and reports, the aircraft has crashed in the sea”, the answer states succinctly.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which had issued a “technical recommendation” for the operation of the Frontex drone in Greece, is also unwilling to comment on the crash. The operation of the “Heron 1” was categorised as a “state operation” by the government in Athens, writes the Cologne-based agency in response to a freedom of information request from “nd”. Therefore, although the operations were carried out on behalf of the EU, they were subject to Greek regulations and not EU law.
The EASA also does not want to release its “technical recommendation” for the airworthiness of the “Heron 1” to the Greek authorities. The agency decided this after “consultations with the authors” of the requested documents. The reason given by the agency is the “protection of commercial interests” and “public security in a Member State”. The refusal to hand over the documents is therefore based on an instruction from the Israeli manufacturer or Airbus.
Due to the “serious and persistent allegations” against Greek border authorities, the European Parliament had called on Frontex in a resolution last week to “scale down its operations” in Greece. The renewed deployment of a surveillance drone goes in a different direction.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: The “Heron 1” that crashed in August during a mission on Crete (Greek Coast Guard).