Germany blocked on Wednesday a billion-dollar drone deal to lease remotely piloted Heron TP vehicles (Eitan) Heron-2 drones to the German Air Force made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
The German newspaper Die Welt reported that the opposition to the drone deal was first raised last week after members of parliament paid a visit to the industrial compound in Israel. Members of the delegation expressed dismay at the discovery that the drones were already equipped with weapons systems which were almost ready to begin operations from the air.
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Shortly after the visit, members of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government, told Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Friday that they would not approve the drone deal with Israel in its current version.
Germany is currently operating more than ten Heron-1 drones around the world, including in Afghanistan, used for reconnaissance purposes only and can not be armed. The Social Democratic MPs demanded that the Heron-2 drones, which can be equipped with rockets do not come with the inclusion of any specialized weapons systems.
The new UAVs will be used as an intermediary until Germany, France, Italy, and Spain will jointly develop a UAV, by 2025.
The party is fundamentally opposed to the notion of preemptive targeted liquidation using drones. After the visit, its members demanded that the drones be received in a state that would only facilitate intelligence gathering.
“It’s a shame that our friends in the coalition and the Defense Ministry are so stubborn,” said one SPD member yesterday in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Ynet’s print publication. “We would have happily had the drones leased for intelligence missions from the IAI. What a shame.”
The German Green Party welcomed the decision. “Attacks launched by drones changed the face of wars in a radical way. They often contribute to the escalation in the levels of violence and they are a contravention of international law,” one member added.
The last opportunity to approve the deal before the Bundestag’s summer hiatus was at the budget committee meeting on Wednesday. Given that it was rejected, discussions on the matter will have to wait for the next government after the September elections.
The deal was considered unusual because UAVs were leased and not purchased. Also, the deal would have established the UAVs in Israel, and the German pilots would have operated them from Israel.
By Ynet News