In a report to the Bundestag, the Ministry of Defense is pressing for the arming of Bundeswehr drones. This “corresponds to today’s operational realities and is urgently needed,” says the 21-page paper that was sent to parliamentarians on Friday and is available to the dpa. “Armed drones not only increase the security and responsiveness of our own forces and those of our partners in action, they can also make a significant contribution to protecting the civilian population and civilian facilities on site.”
To date, the Bundeswehr has deployed three Heron 1 reconnaissance drones in operations in Afghanistan and Mali. A change to the larger and more modern Heron TP is planned for 2021. This model can not only be used to observe enemies, but can also carry weapons. However, the coalition agreement between the Union and the SPD stipulates that a parliamentary decision on arming can only be made after “extensive international, constitutional and ethical assessment”.
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Protection shield for German soldiers
The Defense Ministry conducted this debate with a series of events and is now taking stock with the report that has now been published. It should “serve as a basis for the upcoming parliamentary referral and decision,” the ministry writes. The Air Force of the Bundeswehr has been demanding combat drones for many years. In Afghanistan, they could have served as a protective shield for German patrols and saved lives.
Critics, on the other hand, believe that the remote-controlled aircraft lower the inhibition threshold for the use of weapons because no own soldiers are endangered. The targeted killing of terrorist suspects by US drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia or Yemen is highly controversial under international law. They should be banned in Germany.
SPD still needs advice
The SPD still sees a need for advice. The report could only be a first step, said deputy group leader Gabriela Heinrich. “We have set tough and binding criteria that have to be met,” she told dpa. This includes that the drones should be controlled from the country of operation and not from a location thousands of kilometers away. In addition, an operational concept is to be disclosed and the greatest possible psychological support for the pilots who control the drones from the ground is to be guaranteed.
The left reiterated its rejection of combat drones. Defense expert Alexander Neu described them as “inexpensive ranged weapons” that would lower the inhibition threshold for use.