First test in Malta: Frontex drones approaching

A reconnaissance drone is to track down boats carrying refugees in the central Mediterranean Sea in the future, the main contractor is the Airbus Group. The range of the deployed „Heron 1“ also enables flights off the coasts of North Africa.

Frontex is apparently stationing its new drones in Malta. As the Times of Malta reports, the EU border agency carried out a first test flight there on Friday. The newspaper illustrates the report with photos of a „Heron 1“ on the runway of the international airport in Malta.

Frontex had tendered a contract for the procurement of large drones in 2019. The legal framework was the Frontex Regulation, renewed in 2016, which allows the agency to acquire or lease its own technical equipment, following a decision by the executive director. The vehicles, vessels, aircraft or surveillance equipment can then be used for joint operations, pilot projects or rapid interventions for border security purposes, according to Article 38. „First test in Malta: Frontex drones approaching“ weiterlesen

German Navy buys unmanned helicopters

The Defence Ministry is equipping five corvettes with helicopter drones. This could bring a procurement process that has been going on for 13 years to an end.

Last week, the German Bundestag passed a bill for the „Eurodrone“, a far-reaching drone project. Under the leadership of Airbus, defence companies from Germany, France and Italy are to develop and mass-produce a drone weighing around 11 tonnes for almost four billion euros. It can be used for reconnaissance, interception and attacks.

Also on the agenda of the Budget and Defence Committee, but with less fanfare, was the procurement of a naval drone. In the AImEG project („Reconnaissance and Identification in the Maritime Operational Area“), the Ministry of Defence has been planning since the noughties to equip its then new „Braunschweig-class“ corvettes type K130 with helicopter drones. They are to reconnoitre so-called „overwater contacts“ at a distance of up to 40 nautical miles (about 74 kilometres) and be used, for example, for boarding ships. For this purpose, the aircraft are equipped with digital cameras and infrared sensors. „German Navy buys unmanned helicopters“ weiterlesen

Reconnaissance and attack: German Bundeswehr is working on drone swarms

In various projects, the military and the defence industry are investigating the networking of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles. For the Air Force, they could in small numbers support air combat; for the Army, they can detect and destroy nearby targets in large swarms.

In various projects, the Army and Air Force are researching the „Manned-Unmanned-Teaming“ (MUM-T) of drones that, for example, support fighter jets or helicopters in reconnaissance or attack ground targets in advance flight. The number of accompanying drones is theoretically unlimited and is primarily determined by the computing power of the military control system on the ground.

From 2022, the European Defence Agency wants to fund corresponding research. This is what the German Ministry of Defence writes in its answer to a parlamentarian question. The planned project is called „Autonomous, Reconfigurable Swarms of Unmanned Vehicles for Defense Applications“ (ACHILLES); the unmanned aerial vehicles are to carry out surveillance tasks. The projectalso includes the possible integration of the networked drones into the airspace controlled by civilian air traffic controllers. „Reconnaissance and attack: German Bundeswehr is working on drone swarms“ weiterlesen

German Social Democratic Party approves EU war drone

From 2030, European air forces want to have a drone for surveillance, interception or attack. The weapon system could be exported worldwide.

The German Bundestag has just given the go-ahead for the development and procurement of the Eurodrone. A so-called 25 million bill of the governing coalition of Christian and Social Democrats was voted on in the budget committee, the Defence Committee also gave its approval this morning. Their decision clears the way for the series production of a new unmanned system, which is to be delivered to the currently participating countries Germany, France, Italy and Spain from 2029.

The bill now passed for „industrial support for initial flight operations“ allows the Ministry of Defence to sign a contract with the German defence division of Airbus. The European company will be the prime contractor for the final assembly, working with Dassault Aviation (France) and Leonardo (Italy). The total project will cost at least 7.6 billion euros, of which Germany will account for exactly half. „German Social Democratic Party approves EU war drone“ weiterlesen

Germany’s long road to drone power

The German Bundeswehr has been flying reconnaissance drones for 60 years, and now they are to be armed. In a study, the author describes all German military drones and the role of the Airbus Group.

According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Agnès Callamard, more than a hundred states have drones in military use. Most of these are reconnaissance and surveillance systems that date back to well into the last century. Germany is one of the countries that have been using unmanned systems for decades.

In the early 1960s, the Ministry of Defence sent 22 soldiers to the Grafenwoehr military training area for training on US drones, and others were trained as maintenance and repair personnel in the USA. They flew a drone made by a US manufacturer that was later taken over by Northrop Grumman. Today, the US defence contractor builds the world’s largest military unmanned aerial vehicle, the „Global Hawk“; several air forces of NATO countries and also the military alliance itself fly the giant drone for surveillance and reconnaissance. „Germany’s long road to drone power“ weiterlesen

Predicting crime and profiling: Europol and Frontex turn to artificial intelligence

The EU police agency will soon receive a new regulation that will allow sensitive personal data to be used for research purposes. Corresponding projects are already underway. As early as next year, the EU border agency wants to use an AI-based lie detector for immigration control.

The European police agency Europol has existed in The Hague since 1999. Its tasks include the storage and processing of data generated in the course of police investigations. Europol has set up a comprehensive Europol Information System (EIS) for this purpose, which currently contains around 1.3 million objects and 250,000 persons. It is filled by police forces from EU member states using a „data loader“ in an automated procedure. In addition, the agency operates files on various crime areas in so-called analysis projects, including, for example, terrorism, organised crime, cybercrime or drug-related crime.

Europol is only competent if a crime that has been committed or is suspected of being committed affects two or more member states. In this case, however, the agency may also process information on contact persons, witnesses or victims of a crime. This data is processed by a software that searches for so-called cross-matches. Europol hopes that this search for connections between crimes or perpetrators will lead to new investigative approaches. „Predicting crime and profiling: Europol and Frontex turn to artificial intelligence“ weiterlesen

Future Combat Air System: Industry squabbles over largest European defence project

The governments of France, Germany and Spain want to develop an AI-based air defence network by 2040. It consists of a new generation of fighter jets accompanied by swarms of drones. A „Combat Cloud“ will then ensure networking with other units on the ground and in the air.

The next stage in the development of a new type of an European air combat system will be delayed. The reason is disputes over competencies among the defence companies involved, which therefore let a deadline for submitting bids on 5 February expire. This was the response of the German Federal Ministry of Defence to a question from Tobias Pflüger, member of the Bundestag. According to this, there are not yet „consented individual offers“ in all technology areas.

Together with France, Germany wants to develop a nuclear-capable „Future Combat Air System“ (FCAS) over the next 20 years, which essentially consists of a new type of combat aircraft. It is to belong to the so-called „sixth generation“ and therefore bears the designation „Next Generation Fighter“ (NGF). In the meantime, Spain has also joined the project. „Future Combat Air System: Industry squabbles over largest European defence project“ weiterlesen

The armed „Eurodrone“ is also to fly with wiretapping technology

On its website, the German Ministry of Defence gives the impression that the mass production of an EU combat drone has already been decided. First, however, the Bundestag is to vote on it. The Social Democratic Party is thus faced with a decision of great consequence.

The „Eurodrone“, for which the German government, together with the governments of France, Italy and Spain, wants to spend 7.1 billion euros, is also to be used for signal intelligence (SIGINT) purpose. This was announced by the Ministry of Defence on Friday under the headline „Eurodrone will improve Bundeswehr reconnaissance“ on its website. Until now, only imaging intelligence (IMINT) and armament had been discussed as possible applications.

The „Eurodrone“ could thus succeed the „Euro Hawk“ project, which failed miserably. High-flying drones of the HALE class (High Altitude, Long Endurance) were to carry three digital interception modules ordered by the Bundeswehr from the Airbus Group. After the US manufacturer Northrop Grumman had delivered a first prototype for test flights, the then Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) pulled the „ripcord“ on the project in summer 2013. To operate in German airspace, the drones needed a system to detect and avoid other aircraft. The US government and Northrop Grumman had withheld important documents needed for the approval process. „The armed „Eurodrone“ is also to fly with wiretapping technology“ weiterlesen

Frontex Files: The Military-Border Police Complex

Following Freedom of Information requests, the EU Border Agency has released over one hundred presentations, most of which feature companies promoting their military technologies for securing Europe’s external borders. Deployments to counter migration use drones, satellites, high-resolution cameras and radars, pattern and behaviour recognition, and lead-free ammunition.

As announced in advance, the German TV „ZDF Magazin Royale“ published the „Frontex Files“ last night: a compilation of more than a hundred presentations given by a few dozen manufacturers of surveillance technology to the EU border agency over the past four years. Frontex regularly invites to so-called „Industry Days“, where the companies exchange information with interior ministries and border forces.

The documents come from freedom of information requests, brought to light by Luisa Izuzquiza, who works for Corporate Europe Observatory in Brussels, and Margarida Silva and Myriam Douo. With the platform „Frag den Staat“, Izuzquiza is being sued by Frontex for 24,000 Euros in legal fees after losing a case at the European Court of Justice. The agency was asked to provide information on which see-going units it deploys for migration defence in the Mediterranean. With the names of the ships, the activists wanted to track whether they were involved in illegal deportations back to Libya. Now the „Frontex Files“ are on the servers of „Frag den Staat“. „Frontex Files: The Military-Border Police Complex“ weiterlesen

Where have all the military drones gone?

The German Bundeswehr is one of the armies that flew unmanned systems for reconnaissance already in the 1960s. The first aircraft resembled a model aeroplane and came from the US Army, later they looked like a rocket. From the turn of the millennium, Airbus in particular benefited from the German drone programme.

According to various answers given by the Ministry of Defence to parliamentary questions, the Bundeswehr today has almost 1,000 unmanned aerial vehicles in various designs and sizes. Not counted are aircraft that have been lost; as explained by a list from 2013, about one in seven Bundeswehr drones crashes or is destroyed during an emergency landing.

It is little known that Germany is one of the countries that have been using unmanned military systems for many decades. The first projects date back to the early 1960s, when the Ministry of Defence sent 22 soldiers to the Grafenwöhr military training area to train on US drones. Further soldiers were trained as maintenance and repair personnel in the USA. „Where have all the military drones gone?“ weiterlesen