Heron TP in Israel: Germany now arms its drones

With the decision to buy 140 missiles, the German „drone debate“ comes to an end after eight years. All details about the weapons are top secret.

At the request of the government’s parliamentary groups, the Bundestag’s Budget and Defence Committees last week gave the green light to arm the Bundeswehr’s Heron TP drones. As an „interim solution“, they are to provide the air force with a new weapon system until the Eurodrone is fully developed in six years at the earliest. The missiles cost €152 million.

The decisions bring to an end an eight-year-long „drone debate“ in which initially only the Greens and the LEFT opposed the plans of the governing coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD). It began in 2014 with a public hearing of the Defence Committee on „legal and ethical aspects of armed drones“ in the Bundestag, followed in 2018 by the decision to procure „weaponisable“ Heron TP from Israel. „Heron TP in Israel: Germany now arms its drones“ weiterlesen

Green stepping stone for armed drones in Germany

The Conservatives must watch their years-long push to arm drones from the opposition now

The commander of Bundeswehr operations abroad, Lieutenant General Erich Pfeffer, today warned against dispensing with armed drones. „The troops“ do not understand the political argument and need combat drones for close air support, for example in case a convoy is attacked, he said. „If you take the arguments against armed drones to their logical conclusion, you would have to abolish essential parts of the armed forces,“ Pfeffer, who is soon to retire, realised. But that does not seem to be the case at the moment.

Instead, all signs point to green: in the new coalition agreement, the parties of the „traffic light“ coalition („red“ Socialdemocrats, „yellow“ Liberals, Greens) will presumably agree on a „yes“ to armament. This will end almost decades of wrangling with numerous hearings and a „drone debate“ in the Ministry of Defence which brought together all the pro-arguments once again. In the meantime, only the Left Party in the Bundestag is clearly against automated weapon systems. It is now the conservative CDU/CSU MPs, of all people, who are vehement supporters, who have to watch their introduction from the opposition’s sulking corner. „Green stepping stone for armed drones in Germany“ weiterlesen

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

Civil and military use: Armament companies test anti-collision system for drones

In future, military drones will be treated the same as manned aviation.Then European air forces could also station the „Eurodrone“ in their countries and exercise with it outside military training areas. For this, an EU project is to develop general standards.

Bavarian company Hensoldt is nearing completion of a radar system that will allow drones to detect an impending collision. This was announced by the manufacturer in a press release. According to the release, a collision warning system has already been successfully tested in flight. Work on the interaction with an autopilot is also close to completion. The technology is to be used in large military drones as well as on board smaller civilian drones.

With the system, Hensoldt wants to enable the integration of unmanned aircraft into the airspace controlled by Air Traffic Management. There, the principle applies that pilots must avoid other aircraft. Numerous drone companies are therefore working on avoidance systems or have already developed them, according to their own statements. The „Predator“ drone, for example, is reportedly about to be integrated into US airspace after the manufacturer has successfully tested a corresponding technology. „Civil and military use: Armament companies test anti-collision system for drones“ weiterlesen

German Social Democratic Party approves EU war drone

From 2030, European air forces want to have a drone for surveillance, interception or attack. The weapon system could be exported worldwide.

The German Bundestag has just given the go-ahead for the development and procurement of the Eurodrone. A so-called 25 million bill of the governing coalition of Christian and Social Democrats was voted on in the budget committee, the Defence Committee also gave its approval this morning. Their decision clears the way for the series production of a new unmanned system, which is to be delivered to the currently participating countries Germany, France, Italy and Spain from 2029.

The bill now passed for „industrial support for initial flight operations“ allows the Ministry of Defence to sign a contract with the German defence division of Airbus. The European company will be the prime contractor for the final assembly, working with Dassault Aviation (France) and Leonardo (Italy). The total project will cost at least 7.6 billion euros, of which Germany will account for exactly half. „German Social Democratic Party approves EU war drone“ weiterlesen

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

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: Problems with another drone project

The LUNA is one of the most widely used drones in the Bundeswehr, and it is also the oldest. The contractor for a much more powerful successor system has now declared insolvency.

In the past two weeks, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) has decided to use the emergency brake against the arming of Bundeswehr drones. This concerned the HERON TP from Israel, which is to replace the HERON 1, which has been flown by the German Army since 2010. It is currently unclear whether and when the German government will try again to make up the decision for the armed HERON TP. Until then, drones will therefore only be used for reconnaissance. In addition to HERON 1, the Bundeswehr also flies the drone LUNA in Afghanistan and Mali. The abbreviation stands for „Airborne Unmanned Short-Range Reconnaissance Equipment“. „Germany: Problems with another drone project“ weiterlesen

German Social Democrats tip the scales against arming Heron TP drones – but now the „Eurodrones“ are coming

The arming of Israeli drones has been stopped for now, but in coming months the Bundestag will vote on whether to approve purchase of 21 „Eurodrones“.

Since 2010, the German Armed Forces have been flying unarmed drones of the type „Heron 1“ in Afghanistan, and since 2016 also in Mali. They come from an Israeli defence company, the main contractor is Airbus with its German branch in Ottobrunn. From 2021, the successor model „Heron TP“ is to be available, which the Bundeswehr wants to arm.

These plans are now off the table for the time being. Actually, the budget committee was supposed to decide tomorrow on the purchase of missiles for the „Heron TP“. At the request of Social Democratic Party (SPD) defence policy spokesman Fritz Felgentreu and with endorsement of the parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich, the Ministry of Defence had prepared a corresponding draft resolution in November. The SPD forms the current government together with Christian Democrats. „German Social Democrats tip the scales against arming Heron TP drones – but now the „Eurodrones“ are coming“ weiterlesen