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German Coalition Partner Says No to Army’s Request for Armed Drones

Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd, Airbus, and the German ministry of defense signed a $600M deal to lease 5 Heron TP drones in 2018.

One of Germany’s ruling coalition partners has refused to support the armed forces request to arm the five Israeli drones the country will receive in the next few months.

The $600 million deal to lease five Heron TP drones for nine years was signed in 2018 between Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI), Airbus, and the German ministry of defense.

The Heron TP is a significant upgrade on the Heron 1 surveillance and reconnaissance drone IAI currently leases to Germany.

Under the deal, the drones were unarmed The decision to arm them was supposed to take place once “comprehensive international legal, constitutional, and ethical assessments” had been made according to the government coalition contract signed by Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in February 2018.

Over two years down the road, however, the SPD is still not convinced about the need to arm these unmanned aircraft.

“Together with a large section of the members of the party and other groups in German society involved in promoting peace policies, I do not see in the discussion so far about arming the UAVs any sufficient justification,” said SPD leader Norbert Walter-Borjans.

He added, “There is a thin line between protecting life and killing using a joystick.”

Armed Forces Want Combat Drones

Walter-Borjans’ statement has created a debate in the German political sphere ahead of the anticipated December 16 vote on the matter in German parliament.

While Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer reacted “frostily” to the statement, according to Deutsche Welle, German Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz, a member of the SDP, told Globes that “nobody has a problem about procuring Israel weapons.”

In the multiple rounds of discussions organized by the ministry of defense in recent months soldiers have reportedly described their predicament of having to observe attacks on Bundeswehr camps or patrols with their unarmed drones — without the power to do anything about it. 

Germany’s armed forces, the Bundeswehr, currently uses the unarmed Heron 1, predecessor of the Heron TP, in its missions in Afghanistan and Mali.

In the event of coming under armed attack, the Bundeswehr calls fighter jets to the scene, often wasting precious time.

If the Bundeswehr does not receive combat drones, “we are negligently putting the lives of our soldiers at risk,” Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer asserted.

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