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

Frontex Files: The Military-Border Police Complex

Following Freedom of Information requests, the EU Border Agency has released over one hundred presentations, most of which feature companies promoting their military technologies for securing Europe’s external borders. Deployments to counter migration use drones, satellites, high-resolution cameras and radars, pattern and behaviour recognition, and lead-free ammunition.

As announced in advance, the German TV „ZDF Magazin Royale“ published the „Frontex Files“ last night: a compilation of more than a hundred presentations given by a few dozen manufacturers of surveillance technology to the EU border agency over the past four years. Frontex regularly invites to so-called „Industry Days“, where the companies exchange information with interior ministries and border forces.

The documents come from freedom of information requests, brought to light by Luisa Izuzquiza, who works for Corporate Europe Observatory in Brussels, and Margarida Silva and Myriam Douo. With the platform „Frag den Staat“, Izuzquiza is being sued by Frontex for 24,000 Euros in legal fees after losing a case at the European Court of Justice. The agency was asked to provide information on which see-going units it deploys for migration defence in the Mediterranean. With the names of the ships, the activists wanted to track whether they were involved in illegal deportations back to Libya. Now the „Frontex Files“ are on the servers of „Frag den Staat“. „Frontex Files: The Military-Border Police Complex“ 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

Libya and Russia: NATO spy drones fly first missions

Western military forces have stationed seven GLOBAL HAWK on Sicily. Unlike US Air Force drones, NATO switches off their transponders during missions

A drone stationed in Sicily as part of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme has completed its first missions. Flights were made towards Libya and Russia, reports ItalMilRadar. The internet portal evaluates the data from transponders that large aircraft must have installed. However, the devices were switched off over the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. So it is unclear how close the aircraft flew to the territory of the two countries. Depending on the altitude, NATO drones can perform reconnaissance up to 200 kilometres inland. „Libya and Russia: NATO spy drones fly first missions“ 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

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

EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis

A new monitoring system for Tunisian coasts should counter irregular migration across the Mediterranean. The German Ministry of the Interior is also active in the country. A similar project in Libya has now been completed. Human rights organisations see it as an aid to „pull backs“ contrary to international law.

In order to control and prevent migration, the European Union is supporting North African states in border surveillance. The central Mediterranean Sea off Malta and Italy, through which asylum seekers from Libya and Tunisia want to reach Europe, plays a special role. The EU conducts various operations in and off these countries, including the military mission „Irini“ and the Frontex mission „Themis“. It is becoming increasingly rare for shipwrecked refugees to be rescued by EU Member States. Instead, they assist the coast guards in Libya and Tunisia to bring the people back. Human rights groups, rescue organisations and lawyers consider this assistance for „pull backs“ to be in violation of international law.

With several measures, the EU and its member states want to improve the surveillance off North Africa. Together with Switzerland, the EU Commission has financed a two-part „Integrated Border Management Project“ in Tunisia. It is part of the reform of the security sector which was begun a few years after the fall of former head of state Ben Ali in 2011. With one pillar of this this programme, the EU wants to „prevent criminal networks from operating“ and enable the authorities in the Gulf of Tunis to „save lives at sea“. „EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis“ weiterlesen

Eurodrone delayed by two years

The envisaged date for series production of a European long-range drone is not tenable. The German Ministry of Defence is to be responsible for the delay of at least two years. In the meantime, the project has been transferred to „Permanent Structured Cooperation“. Further governments could join the initiative.

The series production of the so-called Eurodrone cannot begin before 2027. This was written by the Federal Ministry of Defence in response to a small inquiry. At the beginning of the year, the German government had still declared that it „still assumes unchanged“ that the development would be completed by 2025. The Ministry of Defence had also published this timetable for the presentation of a model at the International Aviation Exhibition in Berlin. „Eurodrone delayed by two years“ 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