Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe

The agencies EMSA and Frontex have spent more than €300 million on drone services since 2016. The Mediterranean in particular is becoming a testing track for further projects.

According to the study „Eurodrones Inc.“ presented by Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Töpfer for Statewatch seven years ago, the European Commission had already spent over €315 million at that time to investigate the use of drones for border surveillance. These efforts focused on capabilities of member states and their national contact centres for EUROSUR. The border surveillance system, managed by Frontex in Warsaw, became operational in 2014 – initially only in some EU Member States.

The Statewatch study also documented in detail the investments made by the Defence Agency (EDA) in European drone research up to 2014. More than €190 million in funding for drones on land, at sea and in the air has flowed since the EU military agency was founded. 39 projects researched technologies or standards to make the unmanned systems usable for civilian and military purposes. „Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe“ 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

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 Turkish Drone War over Nagorno-Karabakh: Gamechanger for more unmanned armament?

Video lecture 11 March at 7 pm (CET)

The lecture in English was simultaneously translated into German. See it on YouTube in original language.

The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in autumn 2020 is considered the first inter-state conflict won through the use of armed drones. Turkey supported Azerbaijan’s fighting with its „Bayraktar TB2“. Compared to the drones of the previous market leaders from the USA and Israel, these are smaller and considerably cheaper. Germany supplied technology for the production of ammunition. The deployment was preceded by attacks in Syria, Kurdistan and Libya.

After the USA, Israel and China, Turkey now also wants to become an armed drone power. This arms race serves as an argument for many states to also acquire unmanned weapon systems. In the military, however, their increasing proliferation is also prompting new efforts to modernise air defences.

We therefore look into the question of how armed drones have already changed today’s warfare.

Chris Cole, co-founder of the Dronewars UK initiative
Bahruz Samadov, PhD student and author from Azerbaijan
Gevorg Mnatsakanyan, journalist and conscript from Armenia
Kamaran Othman, human rights observer for the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraqi Kurdistan

Moderation: Matthias Monroy

Image: Bayraktar TB2 at Victory Parade in Baku (President.az, CC BY 4.0).

 

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

Artificial intelligence: Frontex improves its maritime surveillance

Frontex wants to use a new platform to automatically detect and assess „risks“ on the seas of the European Union. Suspected irregular activities are to be displayed in a constantly updated „threat map“ with the help of self-learning software.

The EU border agency has renewed a contract with Israeli company Windward for a „maritime analytics“ platform. It will put the application into regular operation. Frontex had initially procured a licence for around 800,000 Euros. For now 2.6 million Euros, the agency will receive access for four workstations. The contract can be extended three times for one year at a time.

Windward specialises in the digital aggregation and assessment of vessel tracking and maritime surveillance data. Investors in the company, which was founded in 2011, include former US CIA director David Petraeus and former CEO’s of Thomson Reuters and British Petroleum. The former chief of staff of the Israeli military, Gabi Ashkenazi, is considered one of the advisors. „Artificial intelligence: Frontex improves its maritime surveillance“ 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 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

Big business with throw-away military drones

The defence company Airbus is expected to have produced 2,000 target drones soon, at a unit price in the six-digit range. The Bundeswehr uses them for air defence training. Further missions are testing swarms of drones.

To train air defence forces, the military simulates another aerial vehicle or an approaching missile with so-called target drones. The unmanned aircraft is then not always shot down, sometimes only the detection and tracking of the target is tested.

The Bundeswehr has been using target drones since the 1980s at the latest. Initially, the troops flew a petrol-powered model aircraft, for example the KZD-2 („Kleinziel-Drohne 2“). „Big business with throw-away military drones“ weiterlesen

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