Mediterranean Sea: Frontex claims to have detected 13,000 refugees with drones

After in Malta, the EU border agency is now stationing a long-range drone on Crete. There is contradictory information on the surveillance technology on board.

According to its own figures, Frontex has detected at least 13,000 refugees in 300 cases with the help of long-range drones and reported them to the responsible coast guards. Since May last year, the EU border agency has stationed a Heron 1 from the Israeli arms company IAI in Malta for such missions. The drone is officially registered to the Maltese Air Force.

The contract for Frontex drones was awarded to the German branch of the Airbus Group in Bremen, which also flies four Heron 1s for the German armed forces in Mali. They are controlled from a mobile facility located at the international airport near the Maltese capital Valletta. Other Airbus technicians are responsible for maintenance and repairs there. „Mediterranean Sea: Frontex claims to have detected 13,000 refugees with drones“ weiterlesen

Predator by Cytrox: Spyware discovered on phone of Greek journalist

A committee of enquiry in the EU Parliament is to look into the use of mercenary spyware against opposition members and media workers in Europe. German clients could also be in the spotlight, according to an analysis by the Meta Group.

On 10 March, the European Parliament decided to set up a committee of enquiry into the Pegasus trojan programme, which met for its constituent session yesterday. Background to the case are the known operations of the spying software produced by the Israeli NSO Group against opposition members and journalists in Hungary and Poland. The company claims to have sold its tools to almost all European countries, reports the New Yorker magazine.

The investigation, which goes by the acronym „PEGA“, involves members of parliament who were themselves intercepted by the NSO spying software, including Catalan politician Carles Puigdemont. This „CatalanGate“ was made public by the Canadian research group Citizen Lab at the start of „PEGA“. The EU Commission was also investigated with the trojan. „Predator by Cytrox: Spyware discovered on phone of Greek journalist“ weiterlesen

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

Screening of travellers: U.S. wants to query fingerprint databases in Europe

To participate in the Visa Waiver Programme, Israel allows U.S. authorities access to its biometric data. The government in Washington wants to make this mandatory for another 40 countries.

The US government has sent a letter to EU member states announcing an Enhanced Border Security Partnership (EBSP). This would regulate access to fingerprint databases by US border authorities. It would be a condition for countries whose nationals can enter the United visa-free.

The German government also received such a notification via the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on 9 February, the Social Democratic Party-led Ministry of the Interior confirmed in its answer to a parliamentary question. „Essentially, among other things, this is probably intended to enable the exchange of biometric data, among other things of travellers,“ the ministry writes somewhat nebulously, adding that further details are currently being clarified. The regulation is to apply from 2027, it says. „Screening of travellers: U.S. wants to query fingerprint databases in Europe“ weiterlesen

First type certificate: Israeli drone may fly domestic missions in future

Arms manufacturers want to market their long-range drones for interior ministries or agriculture, but to do so they must fly over populated areas. Market leaders are working feverishly to obtain the necessary permits.

For the first time, the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority has issued a permanent permit to fly a drone in civil airspace. The type certificate was granted to the defence company Elbit for its „Hermes Starliner“, as the company announced in a press release yesterday. According to a spokesperson, Elbit spent six years working on the certification, a process that involved „thousands of man hours, dozens of audits, laboratory tests, ground tests, intensive flight tests and thousands of documents“.

Until now, civilian and military flights of such large drones in Israel were restricted to reserved airspace. According to the aviation authority, the certification that has now taken place meets the applicable NATO standards for the integration of heavyweight drones. Accordingly, the drones used by the military can use civilian airspace – for training, for example – and ascend over populated areas. „First type certificate: Israeli drone may fly domestic missions in future“ weiterlesen

Unrestrained killer robots in Geneva

A UN convention on lethal autonomous weapons systems is not in sight

For more than seven years, several dozen states have been discussing a possible ban on autonomous killer robots at the United Nations (UN). So far, the talks have not led to any concrete negotiations; above all, the major military powers – the USA, China, Israel and Russia – are putting on the brakes. It is also unclear how a joint treaty within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) could be structured.

Lethal autonomous weapons are systems that pursue a target and – with the help of artificial intelligence, for example – decide on the best time to attack. They can be drones in the air, on land or at sea. Such systems can also identify the people to be killed on the basis of their appearance, stature or biometric data. „Unrestrained killer robots in Geneva“ weiterlesen

Takeover of German manufacturer: Rheinmetall re-enters the drone business

Equipping the German Army’s reconnaissance force with new LUNA drones seems to be secured, so a sale of the insolvent German manufacturer EMT to Israel is off the table. The Bundeswehr has also commissioned a study for kamikaze drones, such a system is also offered by Rheinmetall.

Defence contractor Rheinmetall is taking over major parts of insolvent drone manufacturer EMT from Penzberg in Bavaria. This was announced by the company’s Düsseldorf headquarters in a press release this week. The company, founded in 1978 by Hartmut Euer, a graduate engineer, built the LUNA tactical drone for the German armed forces. Originally, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems from Israel was supposed to buy up the company’s bankruptcy assets. This option is now off the table.

Rheinmetall intends to retain the four EMT sites in Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein and integrate them and their 200 employees into the group structure. The group is thus returning to the drone business. Rheinmetall had developed the KZO („Kleinfluggerät Zielortung“) in the 1990s and sold 61 of these systems to the Army. In 2010, the company also won the contract to fly the Israeli HERON 1 for the Air Force, but gave this contract to EADS-Cassidian two years later. The jointly formed business was merged into the restructured Airbus Group in 2014. „Takeover of German manufacturer: Rheinmetall re-enters the drone business“ 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

Negotiations on the Europol Regulation: Will there be a „European FBI“ by the end of the year?

Europol is to be allowed to carry out „discreet“ manhunts and request large amounts of data from private companies, using „artificial intelligence“. In addition, the police agency coordinates special units and cooperated with foreign secret services.

The European Parliament, the Commission and the Council today began the so-called trilogue procedure for a new Europol regulation. The police agency with its headquarters in The Hague could receive significantly more competences. It is stipulated, for example, that Europol coordinates the special police units of the member states in the ATLAS network, reports any criminal conduct within Europol’s competence to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and supports the member states in responding to cyber attacks.

A corresponding proposal to amend the current regulation was presented by the Commission last December. The main changes are named in the title of the legislative text: It is about Europol’s cooperation with private parties, the increased processing of personal data and the role in research and innovation. „Negotiations on the Europol Regulation: Will there be a „European FBI“ by the end of the year?“ 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