Germany will get drones armed for the first time in years of debate, parliamentary sources told AFP on Wednesday as the EU giant, shocked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, moves to build up its defense capabilities, turning to Israel for its military needs.
On Wednesday, the parliamentary defense committee approved the purchase of 140 armed Heron TP drones from Israel for $ 165 million, sources said.
The drones are expected to be delivered within two years, 60 of which will be used for training purposes and the remaining 80 will be used for “operational deployment”.
Germany is also considering acquiring a missile shield system from Israel. The Arrow 3 system, which costs about two billion euros ($ 2.2 billion), is powerful enough to provide protective cover for neighboring EU countries.
“The security situation in Europe has changed significantly with Russia’s attack on Ukraine,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement to the parliamentary committee and AFP.
“In order to counter the new threat, it is necessary to immediately upgrade the Bundeswehr’s equipment, including, in particular, the armament of Heron drones. The need is absolutely necessary, because otherwise serious state interests of a political nature would be compromised, which is unacceptable. “
The German armed forces have so far been allowed to deploy unarmed drones only for reconnaissance purposes, leaving other allies to use armed drones in the field.
The unarmed drones were approved by parliament in 2018, but a plan to equip them with weapons was put on the ice after strong opposition from the Social Democrats, then junior coalition partners of former Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But the devices returned to the military’s shopping list when Chancellor Olaf Scholz, himself a Social Democrat, announced massive spending on German military equipment after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
For years, the German army suffered from underinvestment.
A recent report by Defense Commissioner Eva Hoegel on the state of the military highlights a number of equipment problems, from most warships, ships and emergency fighters to the bitter shortage of next-generation weapons such as rifles or even parachutes.
Scholz announced in a landmark speech three days after Russian troops entered Ukraine that Germany would allocate a special budget of 100 billion euros ($ 109 million) to the military and would use more than two percent of its products for defense annually.
Since then, frantic negotiations have been under way to conclude huge defense deals, including the purchase of up to 35 F-35 fighters in the United States and 15 Eurofighter aircraft in a consortium that includes Airbus.