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

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

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

Germany abandons plans for own NATO drones

In Sicily, NATO has stationed five and the US Air Force two high-flying GLOBAL HAWK. An additional „national provision“ was to cost German taxpayers over half a billion euros

The German government is refraining from plans to acquire its own spy drones for NATO. This is what the Ministry of Defence writes in its answer to a parliamentary question on German participation in the NATO programme „Alliance Ground Surveillance“ (AGS). According to this, there are no longer any intentions to provide NATO „with its own high-flying drones of the High-Attitude-Long-Endurance class“.

As part of the AGS, NATO is stationing five GLOBAL HAWKs at the Italian airbase Sigonella in Sicily. The drones are made by US manufacturer Northrop Grumman and carry optical and radar-based surveillance technology („Imagery Intelligence – IMINT). The platform includes a high-resolution radar for ground observation, which according to media reports has a range of at least 200 kilometres. The drone programme is under the command of the NATO European Air Command in Ramstein. „Germany abandons plans for own NATO drones“ weiterlesen

Shipowners are not allowed to bring refugees back to Libya

The disembarkation of rescued refugees in Libya is punishable under German law, including for merchant ships. This is documented by a Bundestag assessment. However, the Foreign Office and the public prosecutors are not interested in pursuing captains and shipowners

The central Mediterranean is probably one of the best monitored sea areas in the world. The border agency Frontex runs the border police operation „Themis“ there, the External Action Service is responsible for the military operation „EUNAVFOR MED“. In addition to large and small aircraft and ships, submarines, drones and satellite surveillance are used. In addition, NATO is also stationed in the Mediterranean with its „Sea Guardian“ mission an its „Standing NATO Maritime Group“. „Shipowners are not allowed to bring refugees back to Libya“ weiterlesen

Europol steers arms companies for security research

Following the example of the US Department of Defense, Europol should coordinate European security research. In October, the EU interior ministers had decided on an „Innovation Laboratory“ at the Police Agency. Due to potential confusion, the department will now be renamed.

Since 1984, the European Union has organised its civil security research in multi-annual framework programmes, the current programme is called „Horizon 2020“. Arms companies are involved in many of these projects; they are conducting research with institutes and authorities on drone tanks for border control, stopping „non-cooperative vehicles“ with electromagnetic pulses or observing cities and borders by satellite. International agreements enable the involvement of third countries, for example Israel’s largest drone manufacturer has been involved in numerous projects for decades. „Europol steers arms companies for security research“ weiterlesen

New German military exercises with Israel

The Israeli military trains cyber attacks in Germany, the German air force simulates the fight for water and natural resources in the Negev desert

The German Armed Forces are planning a joint cybermaneuver with the Israeli military. The exercise entitled „Multi-Lateral Cyber Defence Exercise 20“ (MLCD20) is to take place in Germany in August, with units from Austria and Switzerland also taking part. This was stated by the Ministry of Defence in response to a written question by left-wing MP Andrej Hunko. So far, nothing is known about the scenarios. During such exercises, attacks are simulated by so-called „Red Teams“ and countered by „Blue Teams“.

Parliamentary State Secretary Peter Tauber did not want to disclose which departments the foreign armed forces would send, despite being asked. In Israel, intelligence gathering in cyberspace is carried out by the military „Unit 8200“. According to Israeli media reports, the unit is now also responsible for cyber attacks. „New German military exercises with Israel“ weiterlesen

NATO establishes biometric database, US military has it already

The U.S. Department of Defense stores biometric data on more than seven million people, mostly from war zones. Refugee organizations also collect millions of facial images, irises and fingerprints of people seeking protection. They may also find their way to law enforcement agencies.

The United States military has a database of millions of facial images, iris photos, fingerprints, and DNA data. This „Automated Biometric Information System“ (ABIS) currently stores 7.4 million identities, reports the news magazine OneZero. The information is the result of a request under the Freedom of Information Act and is based on a presentation by an employee in the Ministry of Defense.

The database is maintained by the military biometrics agency and data is collected in countries where the US military is active. The system is intended to identify and track down terror suspects and their contact persons, biometric traces are taken from captured or killed opponents, among others. According to OneZero, data also originates from voter registrations, employment relationships or other information that the military obtains. Allied soldiers are also recorded. „NATO establishes biometric database, US military has it already“ weiterlesen

Spy drone „Euro Hawk“: German government sells parts to NATO

The Bundeswehr hands over devices and instruments of the mothballed „Euro Hawk“ to NATO. It is still unclear what will happen to the aircraft itself and the ground stations. Canada withdrew its buying interest, now the US government could step in.

The German Ministry of Defence has started selling parts of the „Euro Hawk“. Spare parts, special tools and testing equipment for the maintenance of the drone are now being sold to NATO. State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn reported on a corresponding agreement yesterday during Question Time in the Bundestag. Originally, the German government had planned to sell the entire „Euro Hawk“ system to NATO. „Spy drone „Euro Hawk“: German government sells parts to NATO“ weiterlesen

Rheinmetall builds armed drone tank

More and more states have unmanned land vehicles that can be armed or used for surveillance. Programmed missions are carried out completely autonomous.

The Rheinmetall armaments group has developed a „Multimission Unmanned Ground Vehicle“ (MMUGV) that is about to go into series production. The „Mission Master“ is currently on display at various military trade fairs. Rheinmetall is advertising that the drone tank can be used in combat, for troop supply, surveillance, reconnaissance, for evacuation of wounded soldiers or for fire-fighting. The Mission Master is also intended to transport troops.

The vehicles can be operated either remotely, semi-automatically or completely as robots. The „Mission Master“ covers all three possible options. In fully autonomous operation, the operating soldier only has to program the mission and observe its progress. If necessary, the sequence can be interrupted by the user. „Rheinmetall builds armed drone tank“ weiterlesen