German government publishes roadmap on drone armament

The governing coalition of Christian and Social Democrats wants to introduce armed drones in a hurry before the Bundestag elections. More and more SPD members of parliament are now positioning themselves against it

On 16 December, the Budget and Defence Committees of the German Bundestag are due to decide on the armament of the Israeli-derived HERON TP drones for the Bundeswehr. The Ministry of Defence sent a draft decision to the Ministry of Finance a fortnight ago, which will now be submitted to the Bundestag for voting. It is not clear how expensive the armament will be, the mounting points for the desired missiles alone have cost 50 million euros. All details of the ammunition are classified as secret.

In preparation for the vote, the Federal Government has updated an intergovernmental agreement with Israel. It regulates the training of German personnel by the Israeli Air Force and so far only applied to the unarmed HERON TP, which was ordered by the Bundeswehr two years ago. The agreement is now supplemented by the procurement and provision of ammunition, „appropriate additional technical equipment“ and „weapon-specific training“. „German government publishes roadmap on drone armament“ weiterlesen

Italy and Frontex now monitor the Mediterranean Sea with large drones

Last week, the EU Border Agency decided on the multi-year deployment of large drones in the Mediterranean, now Italy is following suit. The contractors have already carried out tests for Frontex over the past two years.

The Italian Ministry of the Interior is providing €7.2 million for the operation of drones in the central Mediterranean. The police and the financial police, who is also responsible for border security, will use the unmanned aerial vehicles by day and night against irregular migration from countries such as Libya and Tunisia. The EU Commission is funding 50% of the procurement with money from the Internal Security Fund.

The contract was apparently awarded to the Italian arms company Leonardo. The firm is to provide up to 1,800 flight hours for an initial year. The drones will be stationed at the Sicilian airports of Trapani, Lampedusa or Ragusa. The Ministry of the Interior demands a deployment radius of about 550 kilometres. The contract has an initial term of one year and can be extended twice. „Italy and Frontex now monitor the Mediterranean Sea with large 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

No Israeli drones fly for Frontex after crash

Several Member States use EU services for unmanned maritime surveillance of different sizes. Operations for Frontex were stopped since January.

The border agency Frontex will not use Israeli drones to monitor the external borders of the European Union until further notice. This is what the EU Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, writes in response to a written question by left-wing MEP Özlem Demirel. The background is the crash of a long-range drone of the Israeli armament company Elbit on January 8th of this year on Crete. The incident with the „Hermes 900“ occurred on the runway of Tympaki airport in Crete.

For the first time, the Commission is now giving details of the incident. According to the commission, it was a „hard landing“ after sensors of the drone had displayed „unexpected readings“. The aircraft then deviated from the runway, which, as Greek media reported, led to considerable damage. The Commission confirms that the fuselage, wings and sensors were damaged, but that „no casualties nor damage on the running way“ occurred. The „Hermes 900“ was apparently flown by pilots of the manufacturer Elbit. „No Israeli drones fly for Frontex after crash“ weiterlesen

Drones for Frontex: Unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders

Instead of providing sea rescue capabilities in the Mediterranean, the EU is expanding air surveillance. Refugees are observed with drones developed for the military. In addition to numerous EU states, countries such as Libya could also use the information obtained.

It is not easy to obtain majorities for legislation in the European Union in the area of migration – unless it is a matter of upgrading the EU’s external borders. While the reform of a common EU asylum system has been on hold for years, the European Commission, Parliament and Council agreed to reshape the border agency Frontex with unusual haste shortly before last year’s parliamentary elections. A new Regulation has been in force since December 2019, under which Frontex intends to build up a „standing corps“ of 10,000 uniformed officials by 2027. They can be deployed not just at the EU’s external borders, but in ‘third countries’ as well.

In this way, Frontex will become a „European border police force“ with powers that were previously reserved for the member states alone. The core of the new Regulation includes the procurement of the agency’s own equipment. The Multiannual Financial Framework, in which the EU determines the distribution of its financial resources from 2021 until 2027, has not yet been decided. According to current plans, however, at least €6 billion are reserved for Frontex in the seven-year budget. The intention is for Frontex to spend a large part of the money, over €2 billion, on aircraft, ships and vehicles. Continue at Statewatch (PDF)

Frontex stations long-endurance drones in the Mediterranean Sea

For the next two years, the EU Commission is looking for an operator of large drones at airports in Malta, Italy or Greece. They should remain in the air for at least 20 hours and carry up to 230 kilograms of surveillance equipment. The high requirements are likely to lead to a competition between companies from the USA and Israel.

The new Frontex regulation came into force on 4 December. The border agency of the European Union wants to build up a „Standing Corps“ of 10,000 police officers by 2027. In this way, Frontex is to become a „European Border Police“ and will be given powers that were previously reserved for the EU member states. The agency, based in Warsaw, can now conduct its own operations and use police coercive measures. This affects joint operations at the EU’s external borders as well as deportations. „Frontex stations long-endurance drones in the Mediterranean Sea“ weiterlesen

EU external borders: Frontex ends test with unmanned airship

The EU border agency Frontex is responsible for the security of the external borders. Its tasks also include testing new surveillance technologies. The Portuguese National Guard, among others, provides support.

The Greek coast guard has completed the test of an airship to monitor its maritime borders off the island of Samos. An aerostat attached to a 1,000 metre long cable was used and provided by the EU border agency Frontex. The pilot project was part of the Frontex operation „Poseidon“ in the eastern Mediterranean, which started more than ten years ago and lasted one month. The German Federal Police has also been present in „Poseidon“ since 2016 with two ships off the Turkish coast.

The 35-meter-long zeppelin comes from the French manufacturer A-NSE. The company specializes in civil and military aerial observation. According to the Greek Marine Ministry, the equipment included a radar, a thermal imaging camera and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for the tracking of larger ships. „EU external borders: Frontex ends test with unmanned airship“ weiterlesen

Frontex monitors sea border with unmanned airship

In the new Frontex budget, more than two billion euros have been reserved for the procurement of the company’s own ships, aircraft and automobiles. After drones, the EU Commission is now testing other technologies for aerial border surveillance

The Greek coast guard is using an unmanned airship in the Aegean Sea. The so-called Aerostat is used to monitor the sea area off the island of Samos. The pilot project is carried out in cooperation with the EU border agency Frontex and is part of Operation „Poseidon“ in the eastern Mediterranean. The tests last one month and are intended to determine the suitability for the detection of irregular border crossings.

If Frontex detects boats that are not seaworthy while still sailing in Turkish territorial waters, the Agency may inform the responsible Turkish sea emergency centre in accordance with maritime law. Aerial images are also to be used to track smugglers. „Frontex monitors sea border with unmanned airship“ 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

Drones watching Fortress Europe

The market for military long-endurance drones is dominated by two companies from Israel and one from the USA. Their products are now flying missions to monitor the Mediterranean Sea.

The Israeli company Elbit has been commissioned by the European Union to monitor the Mediterranean Sea. The company, which specializes in defence and surveillance technology, announced this at the beginning of November. For two years unarmed drones of the type „Hermes 900“ are to be launched from Portugal for reconnaissance missions. The flights will probably take place in the western Mediterranean around the Strait of Gibraltar. Responsible is the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), which announced such plans two years ago. Last summer, EMSA tested two different drones in a pilot project. With their long endurance, they also belonged to the so-called MALE class, but are considerably smaller than the „Hermes 900“. „Drones watching Fortress Europe“ weiterlesen