British NGO: 26 countries have armed drones

Every year, Drone Wars UK counts the number of countries that have medium-altitude, long-endurance armed drones. Some of them, however, do not use them at all. Another six governments are planning to procure them, including Germany and Poland.

At least 26 states have so far procured armed drones or are manufacturing them themselves. Eleven of them have already used the systems in cross-border conflicts, and nine governments even fly attacks within their own borders. This is reported by the London-based organisation Drone Wars UK in its now published annual report.

The count only includes armed drones of medium altitude and long endurance (MALE), such as the „MQ-9 Reaper“ from the USA or the Turkish „Bayraktar TB2“. Not listed are states that use so-called kamikaze drones. These „loitering munitions“, which are also becoming increasingly popular with NATO states, are similar to a missile that can circle above its target before impact and swoop down on it at a favourable moment. The entire system is destroyed in the process. „British NGO: 26 countries have armed drones“ weiterlesen

Ukraine war: The age of loitering warheads is dawning

Initially, the Ukrainian military dominated the drone war against the Russian attackers, who are now striking back unmanned. Both sides are relying on a new drone weapon.

With the attack on Ukraine, the country has become the scene of a new drone war after Nagorno-Karabakh. Unmanned aerial vehicles of various sizes and capabilities are being deployed. Videos of unmanned armed combat are meant to boost the troops‘ and the population’s morale. Initially, Ukraine had the advantage, but now Russia is catching up.

In the current war, manufacturers from Turkey, the USA and Russia will benefit from the military success of their drones. Presumably, a market for smuggling baguette-sized armed drones will soon develop. The current battlefield also proves that drones from the electronics market are playing an increasingly important role in military conflicts. „Ukraine war: The age of loitering warheads is dawning“ weiterlesen

Turkey prepares for world’s first aircraft carrier with drones

The government in Ankara wants to become the fourth naval power in the Mediterranean, and after being kicked out of the „F35“ programme, the navy is turning to drones. Russia, however, could attack key production facilities.

The Turkish defence company Baykar Makina has begun manufacturing the first prototype of an unmanned combat aircraft, which is due to make its maiden flight next year. The announcement on Twitter comes from the company’s head Selçuk Bayraktar and refers to the „National Unmanned Combat Aircraft System“ (MIUS), which Baykar Makina has been developing for almost four years as the „Kızılelma“ („red apple“). The aircraft is said to have a take-off weight of over five tonnes and to be able to carry a payload of 1.5 tonnes. Baykar Makina claims endurance of five hours, with the prototype reaching speeds of up to 800 km/h. Later models are expected to fly at supersonic speeds.

The jet-powered „Kızılelma“ has stealth capability and is controlled via a satellite link. It is supposed to be able to carry out a variety of military actions, including attacks on enemy units on the ground, taking out air defence positions and flying in a swarm in „manned-unmanned-teaming“ with manned fighter jets. Arming with cruise missiles with a range of more than 250 kilometres will also be possible, according to Baykar Makina, and for aerial combat the unmanned aircraft would be equipped with domestic air-to-air missiles. „Turkey prepares for world’s first aircraft carrier with drones“ weiterlesen

Demands from EU member states: Greece to upgrade borders with helicopters, drones, police dogs

Following a review by other Schengen states, the Greek government is improving surveillance and control of its external borders, funded by EU funds. This could encourage pushbacks in violation of international law.

European Union member states are likely to oblige Greece to further upgrade its external borders. A draft decision by the EU Commission, published by the civil rights organisation Statewatch, states that surveillance at land and sea borders will be stepped up. Greek authorities would also have to improve controls at border crossings.

The demands are based on an evaluation of the application of the so-called Schengen acquis in Greece from the summer of 2021. Such reviews take place regularly in each member state and are intended to determine whether a government is complying with Schengen rules. The evaluation teams consist of volunteers from other EU countries. The „deficiencies“ found are documented in a report. „Demands from EU member states: Greece to upgrade borders with helicopters, drones, police dogs“ weiterlesen

Ukraine war: Turkish armed drones allegedly still in use

The government in Kiev publishes pictures of drone attacks on Russian invaders, who in turn report the shooting down of several „TB2“. It is doubtful that the weapon is decisive, as it was in the war over Nagorno-Karabakh. However, its current use is likely to further boost exports.

Despite Russian attacks on hundreds of military bases in Ukraine, the Ukrainian air force apparently still has functioning combat drones. The Defence Ministry yesterday confirmed two attacks by the Turkish-made „Bayraktar TB2“. On Facebook, the head of the air force stressed the important role of drones in national defence. No specific date was given for the missions.

One of the drone attacks is said to have taken place near the town of Malyn, 100 kilometres northwest of the capital Kiev. There, according to Ukrainian forces, two Russian BUK surface-to-air missile systems were destroyed, and according to other reports, another air defence system, four howitzers and 14 military vehicles were hit. This cannot be independently verified, but the report is highly symbolic as the BUK guided missile system is also used for drone defence. „Ukraine war: Turkish armed drones allegedly still in use“ weiterlesen

Status agreement with Senegal: Frontex might operate in Africa for the first time

The border agency in Warsaw could deploy drones, vessels and personnel. It would be the first mission in a country that does not directly border the EU. Mauretania might be next.

As a „priority third state“ in West Africa, Senegal has long been a partner for migration-related security cooperation with the EU. The government in Dakar is one of the addressees of the „North Africa Operational Partnership“; it also receives technical equipment and advice for border police upgrading from EU development aid funds. Now Brussels is pushing for a Frontex mission in Senegal. To this end, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travelled personally to the capital Dakar last week. She was accompanied by the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, who said that a contract with Senegal might be finalised until summer. For the matter, Johansson met with Senegal’s armed-forces minister and foreign minister.

For operations outside the EU, Frontex needs a so-called status agreement with the country concerned. It regulates, for example, the use of coercive police measures, the deployment of weapons or immunity from criminal and civil prosecution. The Commission will be entrusted with the negotiations for such an agreement with Senegal after the Council has given the mandate. The basis would be a „model status agreement“ drafted by the Commission on the basis of Frontex missions in the Western Balkans. Frontex launched its first mission in a third country in 2019 in Albania, followed by Montenegro in 2020 and Serbia in 2021. „Status agreement with Senegal: Frontex might operate in Africa for the first time“ weiterlesen

War in Ethiopia: Armed drones could be again a gamechanger

In a surprise move, the Ethiopian military was able to stop the advance of attacking Tigray rebels on the capital, according to international media reports, with the help of armed drones. Allegedly „Bayraktar TB2“ ordered in Turkey have not been sighted anywhere so far. However, competitors from China and Iran have been documented.

Ethiopia has been in a civil war with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for 14 months. The rebels from the region bordering Eritrea are discontent with the policies of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. After taking office in April 2018, the 43-year-old lifted the state of emergency, released prisoners and promised to fight corruption. As a result, the TPLF, which had been powerful until then, also lost political influence.

Only a few weeks ago, the Tigrinese rebels were on the verge of entering the capital Addis Ababa, but the tide has now turned decisively. On 20 December, the TPLF surprisingly announced a ceasefire and peace talks in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and promised to withdraw back to the north. Both warring parties are accused of serious human rights violations, and the UN Human Rights Council now wants a to investigate this with an independent commission. „War in Ethiopia: Armed drones could be again a gamechanger“ weiterlesen

EU development aid: Italy is gifting more surveillance technology to the Libyan coastguard

With a mobile maritime monitoring centre, EU member states hope to improve the migration deterrence of authorities in Libya. The delivery with an Italian warship is also a signal to Turkey.

Libya has received new technology for monitoring the Mediterranean Sea from Italy. The equipment, financed with EU funds, is installed in containers and was brought to Tripoli by the „San Giorgio“ helicopter carrier. The daily newspaper „Repubblica“ describes the transfer as a „covert operation“. However, it is the long-announced delivery of a mobile Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC).

It is being financed from development aid funds within the framework of the EU project „Support to Integrated Border and Migration Management in Libya“ (SIBMMIL). In a first phase, the EU had approved €46 million from the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa for this purpose, followed by another €15 million in 2018. With this money, the EU wants to equip the Libyan coast guard for better migration deterrence. „EU development aid: Italy is gifting more surveillance technology to the Libyan coastguard“ weiterlesen

EU drones for people in distress: Dropping life rafts for pullbacks?

For the first time, drones are flying on behalf of an EU agency with rescue equipment on board. On the high seas, the actually useful technology could encourage illegal refoulements to countries like Libya. Perhaps the new function will only be used for minor maritime emergencies in European waters.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has awarded a new €30 million contract for drone services. It has gone to the Portuguese company Tekever, which is flying an „AR5“ for EMSA since 2016. Reconnaissance missions of this fixed-wing drone are carried out for coast guards of the Schengen member states, that have to submit a corresponding request to the agency for this purpose. According to the tender, the EMSA drones are also to monitor the Mediterranean Sea within the framework of missions of the border agency Frontex.

Tekever equips the „AR5“ with radars, day and night cameras as well as receivers for signals from ships or emergency systems. They can stay in the air for more than 12 hours. In Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, among others, the „AR5s“ have completed more than 1,200 flight hours in almost 250 missions, including surveillance and safety at sea, detecting pollution or combating illegal fishing. „EU drones for people in distress: Dropping life rafts for pullbacks?“ 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