Joint exercise in Israel: German Luftwaffe take part in training with armed drones for the first time

Soldiers from four NATO countries have exercised with the Israeli Air Force in the use of „live-fire munitions“ with drones. A German squadron took over the reconnaissance. All drones ordered by the Bundeswehr in Israel are to be delivered this month. The new Bundestag will decide on their armament.

Before the German Air Force has armed drones at its disposal, it needs a corresponding Bundestag decision. Their „Heron TP“ ordered in Israel will therefore remain unarmed for the time being. The Bundeswehr also wanted to refrain from training with an armed version of these long-range drones – provided, for example, by the Israeli trainers – until a positive vote by the members of parliament. This was the assurance given by the Ministry of Defence in its answer to earlier parliamentary questions.

In July, however, German pilots took part in at least one such training on an Israeli firing range. Under the name „Blue Guardian“, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) had for the first time organised a ten-day drone exercise at the Palmachim base south of Tel Aviv. In addition to the Bundeswehr, units from the USA, Great Britain, France and Italy took part. All four countries have combat drones or want to arm them quickly, as in the case of Italy. „Joint exercise in Israel: German Luftwaffe take part in training with armed drones for the first time“ weiterlesen

Undercover operations: UK special court sentences police for sexual relations

In at least 27 cases, British police officers have deceived women and entered into intimate relationships with them in undercover missions. According to a verdict handed down yesterday, the police force in charge also interfered with the physical integrity, privacy and political activities of those involved.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) in London ruled yesterday on the use of undercover officers against left-wing movements. The Metropolitan Police violated a „formidable list“ of basic human rights. The case was brought by Kate Wilson, a British citizen who alleges sexual abuse and won justice after a ten-year legal battle. „This has been a long and emotional journey, and I am happy to receive this ruling today“, the now 41-year-old activist commented to a campaign group. Her lawyers described the decision as a landmark.

In a separate hearing, the IPT will decide on further remedies, including compensation for the plaintiff and payment of court costs and legal fees. In another court, Wilson and other women had sued for damages because undercover officers entered into relationships with them that lasted up to nine years. The police had publicly apologised for this after pressure from the women concerned, and seven women finally received compensation. „Undercover operations: UK special court sentences police for sexual relations“ weiterlesen

Flight campaign in the UK: Military drone operates in civilian airspace for the first time

Throughout Europe, military drones are only allowed to fly in restricted areas. This is a major obstacle for training and missions inside the country. A British flight series with a US drone is now set to bring a breakthrough for flights in civilian airspace.

For the past two weeks, US drone manufacturer General Atomics has been flying a „SeaGuardian“ in the UK’s civilian airspace. The unmanned aerial vehicle, designed for maritime surveillance, has a wingspan of 24 metres, can climb up to twelve kilometres and remain in the air for 40 hours. With these flights, the British Ministry of Defence wants to prepare the introduction of the almost identical „SkyGuardian“. From 2024, it is to replace the current armed drone fleet of the Air Force, where it operates under the name „Protector“.

For the flight tests, the drones are equipped with a „Detection And Avoidance“ system (DAA). It shows the pilot which other aircraft are in the vicinity and warns of danger. In the event of an imminent collision, an avoidance procedure is automatically initiated. The British Civil Aviation Authority has provisionally approved the operation of the system. „Flight campaign in the UK: Military drone operates in civilian airspace for the first time“ weiterlesen

Frontex pays another €84 million for aerial surveillance

The border agency spends one-sixth of its budget on flights at the EU’s external borders. With the service, the Frontex director makes himself independent of the governments of the member states. A contract for helicopter operations does not materialise for the time being. In the meantime, however, Libya has ordered helicopters from Airbus.

Frontex has awarded two new contracts for aerial maritime surveillance. These are two of the original four tenders for medium-range and long-range flights. According to the European procurement portal, the contracts worth €53.6 million and €30.9 million were awarded to five charter companies from the Netherlands, the UK and Austria. All beneficiaries had previously provided flight services for Frontex. Several companies also fly for coastguards in other European countries, such as the Netherlands and the UK.

Frontex currently spends one-sixth of its budget this year on its „Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS). The EU border agency began setting it up in 2013. Initially, it was a pilot project with the British company Diamond Executive Aviation (DEA), which was followed by service contracts with a total of nine companies from 2017. It was based on the renewed Frontex Regulation of 2016, according to which the agency can procure, lease or rent its own equipment. This makes Frontex independent of the Member States, from which the agency usually has to request personnel and equipment for “ Joint Operations“. „Frontex pays another €84 million for aerial surveillance“ 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

EU law: No one can stop Frontex

For the first time, the EU border agency commands and arms its own police force. Because its director is „fully independent“, this reinforces a glaring control deficit.

Frontex is an agency which was established by the Council of the European Union in 2004 with Regulation 2007/2004 without a parliamentary decision. It was only subsequently given parliamentary legitimacy within the framework of the Treaty of Lisbon by means of several amendments to the Regulation (first with the amending Regulation 1186/2011 on the basis of Article 77 (2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

Frontex’s governing body is the Executive Director, Fabrice Leggeri, and his now three deputies. Leggeri is, according to the current Regulation 2019/1896, „completely independent in the performance of his or her duties“ from the other EU institutions as well as from the member states. He may „neither seek nor take instructions from any government or from any other body“. This also applies to the agency as such, which „should be independent as regards operational and technical matters and have legal, administrative and financial autonomy“. „EU law: No one can stop Frontex“ 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

Spain wants to station its gendarmerie in Gibraltar

Frontex should actually control the new EU external borders at the Rock of Gibraltar. According to an EU paper, however, the Guardia Civil will take over border tasks there for the first time. In addition to maritime surveillance, this concerns queries of the Schengen Information System or the new EU travel register ETIAS and the imposition of entry bans into the British exclave.

Literally at the last minute, the European Commission and the UK have agreed on a post-Brexit deal. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded on 31 December regulates numerous aspects of future coexistence. Among other things, fishing quotas, but also the uncontrolled border crossing between the British Northern Ireland and the EU member Ireland were disputed until the end.

Brexit also has far-reaching effects on Gibraltar. However, the overseas territory, which has belonged to Great Britain for over 300 years, appears in the agreement exactly once: According to the final provisions, its regulations „shall neither apply to Gibraltar nor have any effects in that territory“. The small town at the Rock is therefore also not part of the EU Customs Union and the Schengen area. Spain would thus have had to introduce border controls on goods and people from Gibraltar from 1 January 2021. This is a major problem in the region, as every day around 15,000 people commute from Spain to work at the crossing in the small town of La Linea to the much richer Gibraltar. „Spain wants to station its gendarmerie in Gibraltar“ 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

German proposal: EU to take over working group on covert observation and surveillance

European police forces are organised in three informal networks for the exchange of information on techniques and methods of clandestine surveillance. The German Presidency wants to merge the structures and establish them with the EU. Europol could be responsible for coordination.

Police tasks include clandestine surveillance, for example to convict suspects of a crime or to prevent the commission of further offences. To this end, the authorities use technical means to listen to the spoken word, to observe with miniaturised cameras or to trace with tracking devices.

To improve covert observation and surveillance, European authorities are joining forces in three networks. Police authorities from Eastern Europe, Finland and Malta are members of the „Surveillance Cooperation Group“ (SCG) founded in Prague in 2017. The countries of the Western Balkans as well as Austria join forces in the „Surveillance Expert Network for Southeast Europe“ (SENSEE). All other EU Member States, the associated Schengen members Norway and Switzerland as well as Europol are organised in the „European Surveillance Group“ (ESG). Great Britain is also still participating in this group. „German proposal: EU to take over working group on covert observation and surveillance“ weiterlesen