Turkey prepares for world’s first aircraft carrier with drones

The government in Ankara wants to become the fourth naval power in the Mediterranean, and after being kicked out of the „F35“ programme, the navy is turning to drones. Russia, however, could attack key production facilities.

The Turkish defence company Baykar Makina has begun manufacturing the first prototype of an unmanned combat aircraft, which is due to make its maiden flight next year. The announcement on Twitter comes from the company’s head Selçuk Bayraktar and refers to the „National Unmanned Combat Aircraft System“ (MIUS), which Baykar Makina has been developing for almost four years as the „Kızılelma“ („red apple“). The aircraft is said to have a take-off weight of over five tonnes and to be able to carry a payload of 1.5 tonnes. Baykar Makina claims endurance of five hours, with the prototype reaching speeds of up to 800 km/h. Later models are expected to fly at supersonic speeds.

The jet-powered „Kızılelma“ has stealth capability and is controlled via a satellite link. It is supposed to be able to carry out a variety of military actions, including attacks on enemy units on the ground, taking out air defence positions and flying in a swarm in „manned-unmanned-teaming“ with manned fighter jets. Arming with cruise missiles with a range of more than 250 kilometres will also be possible, according to Baykar Makina, and for aerial combat the unmanned aircraft would be equipped with domestic air-to-air missiles. „Turkey prepares for world’s first aircraft carrier with drones“ weiterlesen

Demands from EU member states: Greece to upgrade borders with helicopters, drones, police dogs

Following a review by other Schengen states, the Greek government is improving surveillance and control of its external borders, funded by EU funds. This could encourage pushbacks in violation of international law.

European Union member states are likely to oblige Greece to further upgrade its external borders. A draft decision by the EU Commission, published by the civil rights organisation Statewatch, states that surveillance at land and sea borders will be stepped up. Greek authorities would also have to improve controls at border crossings.

The demands are based on an evaluation of the application of the so-called Schengen acquis in Greece from the summer of 2021. Such reviews take place regularly in each member state and are intended to determine whether a government is complying with Schengen rules. The evaluation teams consist of volunteers from other EU countries. The „deficiencies“ found are documented in a report. „Demands from EU member states: Greece to upgrade borders with helicopters, drones, police dogs“ weiterlesen

Ukraine war: Turkish armed drones allegedly still in use

The government in Kiev publishes pictures of drone attacks on Russian invaders, who in turn report the shooting down of several „TB2“. It is doubtful that the weapon is decisive, as it was in the war over Nagorno-Karabakh. However, its current use is likely to further boost exports.

Despite Russian attacks on hundreds of military bases in Ukraine, the Ukrainian air force apparently still has functioning combat drones. The Defence Ministry yesterday confirmed two attacks by the Turkish-made „Bayraktar TB2“. On Facebook, the head of the air force stressed the important role of drones in national defence. No specific date was given for the missions.

One of the drone attacks is said to have taken place near the town of Malyn, 100 kilometres northwest of the capital Kiev. There, according to Ukrainian forces, two Russian BUK surface-to-air missile systems were destroyed, and according to other reports, another air defence system, four howitzers and 14 military vehicles were hit. This cannot be independently verified, but the report is highly symbolic as the BUK guided missile system is also used for drone defence. „Ukraine war: Turkish armed drones allegedly still in use“ weiterlesen

EU Commission proposal: With firearms, drones, GPS tracking into neighbouring countries

According to plans of the EU interior ministers, the Schengen states could soon exercise sovereign powers outside their national borders. This would go far beyond existing agreements.

Are French authorities allowed to bug the car of an environmental activist and use hidden cameras when she is on her way to Spain? After blowing up an ATM, can German police pursue suspects as far as the Netherlands and use firearms? How far inland can such an arrest operation go?

The European Union wants to clarify these and other questions in the field of internal security in a new initiative. To this end, the Commission proposed a Council Recommendation on operational police cooperation in December, which is now being discussed by the Member States in the Council. It goes back to the German EU Presidency in the second half of 2020. At that time, the Federal Ministry of the Interior had Conclusions on Internal Security and a European Police Partnership adopted. There, the EU interior ministers committed themselves to more cooperation, information exchange and the use of new technical surveillance methods, also across borders. „EU Commission proposal: With firearms, drones, GPS tracking into neighbouring countries“ weiterlesen

Status agreement with Senegal: Frontex might operate in Africa for the first time

The border agency in Warsaw could deploy drones, vessels and personnel. It would be the first mission in a country that does not directly border the EU. Mauretania might be next.

As a „priority third state“ in West Africa, Senegal has long been a partner for migration-related security cooperation with the EU. The government in Dakar is one of the addressees of the „North Africa Operational Partnership“; it also receives technical equipment and advice for border police upgrading from EU development aid funds. Now Brussels is pushing for a Frontex mission in Senegal. To this end, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travelled personally to the capital Dakar last week. She was accompanied by the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, who said that a contract with Senegal might be finalised until summer. For the matter, Johansson met with Senegal’s armed-forces minister and foreign minister.

For operations outside the EU, Frontex needs a so-called status agreement with the country concerned. It regulates, for example, the use of coercive police measures, the deployment of weapons or immunity from criminal and civil prosecution. The Commission will be entrusted with the negotiations for such an agreement with Senegal after the Council has given the mandate. The basis would be a „model status agreement“ drafted by the Commission on the basis of Frontex missions in the Western Balkans. Frontex launched its first mission in a third country in 2019 in Albania, followed by Montenegro in 2020 and Serbia in 2021. „Status agreement with Senegal: Frontex might operate in Africa for the first time“ weiterlesen

First type certificate: Israeli drone may fly domestic missions in future

Arms manufacturers want to market their long-range drones for interior ministries or agriculture, but to do so they must fly over populated areas. Market leaders are working feverishly to obtain the necessary permits.

For the first time, the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority has issued a permanent permit to fly a drone in civil airspace. The type certificate was granted to the defence company Elbit for its „Hermes Starliner“, as the company announced in a press release yesterday. According to a spokesperson, Elbit spent six years working on the certification, a process that involved „thousands of man hours, dozens of audits, laboratory tests, ground tests, intensive flight tests and thousands of documents“.

Until now, civilian and military flights of such large drones in Israel were restricted to reserved airspace. According to the aviation authority, the certification that has now taken place meets the applicable NATO standards for the integration of heavyweight drones. Accordingly, the drones used by the military can use civilian airspace – for training, for example – and ascend over populated areas. „First type certificate: Israeli drone may fly domestic missions in future“ weiterlesen

Frontex has air superiority

With its aerial surveillance, from space and soon possibly from the stratosphere, the EU border agency is becoming a quasi-secret service

Twice in the past six years, the EU has drastically expanded Frontex’s powers. In 2016, the agency was allowed to purchase its own equipment, and first began leasing its own aircraft. As a „Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS), they observe the central Mediterranean, the so-called Balkan route and the Aegean. Frontex is thus saying goodbye to the principle of always borrowing personnel and equipment for its missions from the member states.This gives the agency considerably more creative power with less control over its activities at the same time.

The FASS flights can be requested by any EU member state with an external border. The decision whether to deploy lies with Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri. Italy first made use of this in 2017, followed by the first deployment at a land border in Croatia in 2018. In the meantime, FASS aircraft are also flying in Montenegro, Greece and other countries. „Frontex has air superiority“ weiterlesen

New Frontex command structures: Vice directors begin their work

Since 2016, the EU border agency has been given considerably more power. A new management post is now responsible for the currently established armed border force, a deportation unit and data retention.

With two new regulations, the Council of the European Union and the Parliament have equipped the border agency Frontex with new capabilities and competences. Since 2016, Frontex has been allowed to acquire vehicles, aircraft and drones and decide on their deployment there after approval by a host state. The 2019 regulation also provides for the establishment of a „Standing Corps“ of 10,000 officers reporting directly to the headquarters in Warsaw. The 2019 Regulation also allows Frontex to prepare and conduct deportation flights on its own. In addition, the „Standing Corps“ will also take over the establishment and operation of a huge new database for personal travel information.

Frontex was given a new command structure for the three new areas. For the first time, the Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri is assisted by three Deputy Directors. The positions were advertised a year ago and appointed in October. Together with their superior, they have sole authority over all operations. The Frontex Regulation guarantees that no other body has authority over the management of the border agency. „New Frontex command structures: Vice directors begin their work“ weiterlesen

Migration control: EU agency spends € 1.5 billion on virtual borders

The launch of the new Entry/Exit System is delayed to September 2023, the Commission says the contracted companies are to blame.

Between 2014 and 2020 alone, Frontex and eu-LISA agencies spent a total of €1.9 billion on contracts for border surveillance and control systems. This figure is provided by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch, which analysed tenders on the European procurement platform. The money went mainly to large corporations from the IT sector and to arms companies.

Around a quarter of the money was spent on Frontex. After the so-called „migration crisis“, the EU border agency began setting up its own air surveillance service in 2016. This flight service with charter aircraft was supplemented last year by contracts for two large drones in the central Mediterranean. In the current budget, around one-sixth of the agency’s annual budget goes towards leasing the manned and unmanned aircraft. „Migration control: EU agency spends € 1.5 billion on virtual borders“ weiterlesen

Space-Eye: Satellite surveillance from underneath

High-resolution images from earth observation could help with non-governmental sea rescues in the Mediterranean. However, these have to be purchased from commercial providers, because openly accessible images from EU satellites are of low quality. An initiative now wants to enrich this data with other sources and evaluate it with algorithms.

The EU border agency Frontex uses satellites to stop unwanted migration to Europe. As part of the EUROSUR surveillance system, Frontex has set up various services to automatically detect ships and boats carrying refugees with the help of aircraft, drones and also satellites. Frontex then informs the relevant coast guards of the sighting; North African authorities then return the boat occupants to countries such as Libya or Tunisia. The satellite data comes from the Sentinels of the EU’s „Copernicus“ earth observation programme; Frontex also buys higher-resolution images from private providers. In addition to Frontex, the EU’s maritime safety agency EMSA also maintains a satellite-based monitoring system, „CleanSeaNet“.

The German association Space-Eye is now also experimenting with the use of satellite data. The information is intended to help rescue organisations take on board people in distress at sea and bring them to a safe harbour. The association’s satellite working group consists of a dozen scientists and students. For the interview, i spoke with development engineer Elli Wittmann, Steffen Merseburg and Jonathan. „Space-Eye: Satellite surveillance from underneath“ weiterlesen