Armed drone power Airbus

The German armed forces want to arm their drones. Germany, France, Italy and Spain are also to decide on combat drone swarms.

With the „Eurodrone“, Germany wants to join with France, Italy and Spain in the circle of drone powers from 2029. The term refers to countries such as the USA, Israel, China and Turkey, which produce and deploy combat drones and market them worldwide with the label „combat-proven“.

The plans are not new. Already under German Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU), the defence company Airbus – at that time still known as EADS – had advertised the serial production of a „European drone“. Initially, the project was called „FEMALE“ („Future European Male“), the name aimed at the abbreviation MALE, which means „Medium Altitude Long Endurance“ . „Armed drone power Airbus“ weiterlesen

EU drones: Permanent permit for maritime surveillance

This year, the EU is again conducting drone flights for many Member States. Due to many unfulfilled requests, unmanned capabilities are now being expanded. Two drones from Austria and Portugal have become established for coastguard missions. One of the manufacturers has now received a Europe-wide certificate for the first time.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has presented its plans for unmanned flights over European seas this year. According to the report, 14 European governments want to use EMSA drones for coastguard tasks, tracking pollution or inspecting port facilities. This is stated in the EU Commission’s answer to a written question by MEP Özlem Demirel.

EMSA has become the European Union’s drone agency after initial tests in 2017. Missions were first carried out for the coast guard of Iceland. Subsequently, Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and France, as well as the EU Fisheries Agency, have ordered the services with different types of drones. The duration of the respective missions is usually three months. Soon, Frontex will also have large drones at its disposal; until then, the EU border agency uses EMSA unmanned aerial vehicles. „EU drones: Permanent permit for maritime surveillance“ weiterlesen

The Turkish Drone War over Nagorno-Karabakh: Gamechanger for more unmanned armament?

Video lecture 11 March at 7 pm (CET)

The lecture in English was simultaneously translated into German. See it on YouTube in original language.

The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in autumn 2020 is considered the first inter-state conflict won through the use of armed drones. Turkey supported Azerbaijan’s fighting with its „Bayraktar TB2“. Compared to the drones of the previous market leaders from the USA and Israel, these are smaller and considerably cheaper. Germany supplied technology for the production of ammunition. The deployment was preceded by attacks in Syria, Kurdistan and Libya.

After the USA, Israel and China, Turkey now also wants to become an armed drone power. This arms race serves as an argument for many states to also acquire unmanned weapon systems. In the military, however, their increasing proliferation is also prompting new efforts to modernise air defences.

We therefore look into the question of how armed drones have already changed today’s warfare.

Chris Cole, co-founder of the Dronewars UK initiative
Bahruz Samadov, PhD student and author from Azerbaijan
Gevorg Mnatsakanyan, journalist and conscript from Armenia
Kamaran Othman, human rights observer for the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraqi Kurdistan

Moderation: Matthias Monroy

Image: Bayraktar TB2 at Victory Parade in Baku (President.az, CC BY 4.0).

 

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

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

EU has spent over 300 million on surveillance with drones in four years

Unmanned systems have been flying regularly for the European Union’s agencies since 2017. Now, member states are also receiving funding for drones at their external borders. Soon, remote-controlled patrol boats could be deployed.

The EU Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has published a new call for unmanned surveillance of European maritime areas. A company is being sought via the European tendering platform „Ted“ to carry out an initial 2,300 flight hours with larger drones for 20 million Euros. They are to operate in a radius of at least 500 kilometres and remain in the air for more than ten hours. According to the plans, the drones will operate without a runway. This should make it possible to decide quickly and flexibly on their deployment to an operational area.

With the new order, the EU Commission has spent at least 308 million Euros on the use of drones since 2017. That does not include research and development of drone services. A study presented in 2014 by the British non-governmental organisation Statewatch, for example, put this at around 500 million euros. „EU has spent over 300 million on surveillance with drones in four years“ 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

Libya and Russia: NATO spy drones fly first missions

Western military forces have stationed seven GLOBAL HAWK on Sicily. Unlike US Air Force drones, NATO switches off their transponders during missions

A drone stationed in Sicily as part of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme has completed its first missions. Flights were made towards Libya and Russia, reports ItalMilRadar. The internet portal evaluates the data from transponders that large aircraft must have installed. However, the devices were switched off over the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. So it is unclear how close the aircraft flew to the territory of the two countries. Depending on the altitude, NATO drones can perform reconnaissance up to 200 kilometres inland. „Libya and Russia: NATO spy drones fly first missions“ weiterlesen

After the war over Nagorno-Karabakh: British military flirts with Turkish-style armed drones

Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles are smaller and much cheaper than their US counterparts. They can be procured in large numbers, so their loss in action is of little consequence.

There is growing support in the UK for a new programme with smaller armed drones. This is what the daily „Guardian“ writes with reference to senior officials of the British Ministry of Defence. According to the paper, the military should procure light-weight unmanned aerial vehicles like those used by Turkey in Azerbaijan’s attack on the region around Nagorno-Karabakh. These are significantly cheaper than the US combat drones currently flown by the Air Force. Therefore, they could be bought in much larger numbers.

Azerbaijan’s six-week war against the Armenian-defended region of Nagorno-Karabakh is considered the first to be decided with the help of drones. The Azerbaijani military used so-called kamikaze drones of the type „Harop“ from Israel, which can circle over the area of operations for hours before hitting. The German Army had also considered procuring these „loitering munitions“ until 2013, but initially postponed the plans until 2019 and later abandoned them in favour of larger drones. „After the war over Nagorno-Karabakh: British military flirts with Turkish-style armed drones“ weiterlesen

Germany abandons plans for own NATO drones

In Sicily, NATO has stationed five and the US Air Force two high-flying GLOBAL HAWK. An additional „national provision“ was to cost German taxpayers over half a billion euros

The German government is refraining from plans to acquire its own spy drones for NATO. This is what the Ministry of Defence writes in its answer to a parliamentary question on German participation in the NATO programme „Alliance Ground Surveillance“ (AGS). According to this, there are no longer any intentions to provide NATO „with its own high-flying drones of the High-Attitude-Long-Endurance class“.

As part of the AGS, NATO is stationing five GLOBAL HAWKs at the Italian airbase Sigonella in Sicily. The drones are made by US manufacturer Northrop Grumman and carry optical and radar-based surveillance technology („Imagery Intelligence – IMINT). The platform includes a high-resolution radar for ground observation, which according to media reports has a range of at least 200 kilometres. The drone programme is under the command of the NATO European Air Command in Ramstein. „Germany abandons plans for own NATO drones“ weiterlesen