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

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

German Airbase in Jagel: Waiting for the drones

Only 23 years after a military drone airport in Jagel was decided, large drones could actually be stationed there. But the squadron is already analysing images and videos of drone missions in Mali. In this way, „terrorists“ and „smugglers“ are also being pursued from Schleswig-Holstein.

On 12 April 2005, Peter Struck (SPD), the Defence Minister in office at the time, decided to expand the Jagel airbase between Kiel and Flensburg for large military drones. Since 1994, the 51 „Immelmann“ reconnaissance squadron with „Tornado“ jet fighters has been stationed there with currently 37 aircraft. From 2009, the first „Euro Hawk“ spy drone was to be transferred to Schleswig-Holstein, and a little later armed Bundeswehr drones were also to be stationed in Jagel. For this purpose, the military airbase was extensively converted, and the Air Force spent some 33 million Euros on a new hangar, parking areas, work on the runway and the necessary technology.

However, the German drone programme turned out to be a disaster. After delivery of only one prototype, in 2011, the Bundeswehr had to bid farewell to the „Euro Hawk“ due to certification problems. The failed 600 Million Euros project almost led to the resignation of the then Minister of Defence Thomas de Maizière (CDU). As a replacement, the German government wanted to station three „Triton“ drones from the same US manufacturer in Jagel from 2025 onwards; the Defence Ministry also abandoned this project in favour of a manned aircraft. „German Airbase in Jagel: Waiting for the drones“ weiterlesen

European military drones to fly alongside civilian aircraft

Until now, army drones fly in segregated airspace, but soon they will also be allowed for civil airspace. For this purpose, military companies are developing automatic avoid systems. The „Eurodrone“ will be the first to implement this as standard; in Germany, the „Triton“ spy drone may be faster.

The European defence companies Airbus, Dassault and Leonardo want to develop the armed „Eurodrone“ to production readiness by 2025. The medium-altitude-long-endurance drone (MALE) should then be flown by the Bundeswehr and other armies of the EU. In Germany, military drones have so far been operating exclusively in specially reserved airspaces. That could change soon: The Eurodrone is to be fully integrated into the so-called controlled airspace. „European military drones to fly alongside civilian aircraft“ weiterlesen

German Countdown for armed drones

The majority of the population in Germany is against the acquisition of armed drones; nevertheless a contract to procure them may soon be signed. The Social Democratic Party can still prevent the deal.

Before June 15th, the German Ministry of Defense plans to sign a contract to lease seven weaponizable drones. The deadline for concluding the lease agreement that was offered last year has once again been extended. The Airbus Group, the arms company that is the prime contractor in the drone procurement deal, confirmed this to the German Ministry of Defense. The previously agreed-upon price of around 900 million Euros will still be honored.

Acquisition of the drones, which are produced by the Israeli manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries, will be among the most important of the new German military procurements. „German Countdown for armed drones“ weiterlesen