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

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

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

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

„Global Hawk“: New NATO drones fly over Italy, France and Germany

In the next six months NATO will launch its first unmanned surveillance programme. Yesterday, the second of five drones arrived in Sicily. For the first time, it is known where the aircraft are to fly.

NATO’s five „Global Hawk“ are to fly in Italian, French and German airspace. The HALE class drones will use a corridor that was originally set up for the US Air Force’s identical „Global Hawk“. This is confirmed by the Ministry of Defense in response to a parlamentarian question. The corridor leads from Sicily to the Baltic Sea and is located at an altitude of 15 to 20 kilometres. Besides Italy and Germany, the high-flying NATO drones also cross France. „„Global Hawk“: New NATO drones fly over Italy, France and Germany“ weiterlesen

Spy drone „Euro Hawk“: German government sells parts to NATO

The Bundeswehr hands over devices and instruments of the mothballed „Euro Hawk“ to NATO. It is still unclear what will happen to the aircraft itself and the ground stations. Canada withdrew its buying interest, now the US government could step in.

The German Ministry of Defence has started selling parts of the „Euro Hawk“. Spare parts, special tools and testing equipment for the maintenance of the drone are now being sold to NATO. State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn reported on a corresponding agreement yesterday during Question Time in the Bundestag. Originally, the German government had planned to sell the entire „Euro Hawk“ system to NATO. „Spy drone „Euro Hawk“: German government sells parts to NATO“ weiterlesen

German Armed Forces drones complete 87,000 flight hours

The Bundeswehr currently has more than 630 drones. More are to follow, and next year the giant PEGASUS drone will be ordered. 

The German military drones have already completed more than 87,000 flight hours. This was written by the Federal Ministry of Defence in response to a parlamentarian question. With over 50,000 hours, most missions are flown with six Israeli long-range HERON 1 drones. The much smaller LUNA was in the air for around 18,000 hours. As of 2002, the Bundeswehr had purchased 145 units from the German manufacturer EMT. Like the HERON 1, the LUNA is also used in Afghanistan and Mali. „German Armed Forces drones complete 87,000 flight hours“ weiterlesen

Bundeswehr drone projects: further delays to Global Hawk, Euro Hawk and Triton

The US company Northrop Grumman is constructing several derivatives of the Global Hawk drone, including the Euro Hawk, which was once prized by the Bundeswehr, and its successor model Triton. NATO is procuring five Global Hawk drones, which are to be stationed in Sicily. They are scheduled to have initial capability from the end of 2017.

Five Global Hawk high-altitude drones are currently being procured and will be stationed in Sigonella, Sicily, as part of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme. These drones will be deployed for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes in the context of NATO missions. Their express focus is on flights in countries bordering Russia. All NATO member states are required to provide financial assistance for the programme to the tune of an estimated 70 million euros annually. The first procurement is only being financed by a handful of member states, however. The majority of the costs of around 1.45 billion euros is being met by the US (42 per cent), Germany (33 per cent) and Italy (15 per cent). The 13 countries involved in these procurements include the three Baltic states, as well as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. „Bundeswehr drone projects: further delays to Global Hawk, Euro Hawk and Triton“ weiterlesen