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Germany to arm UAVs

Germany is to arm the Heron TP MALE UAVs that are operated from Israel, the Bundeswehr announced. (IAI)

Germany is to arm its medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a move intended for “improving the protection of soldiers on deployments abroad”, the Bundeswehr announced.

The decision to weaponise the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron TP MALE UAVs that Germany leases through Airbus Defence and Space brings to a head more than a decade of deliberations in Berlin on the subject of arming its current and future unmanned aircraft.

“The Budget Committee of the Bundestag approved the armament of the Heron TP today,” the Bundeswehr said on 6 April. “A total of around EUR150 million [USD163.53 million] [is] earmarked for armament, training, and maintenance. In this way, we are improving the protection of soldiers on deployments abroad,” it added.

The Luftwaffe is to operate five Heron TPs from an undisclosed base in Israel, with the type set to become operational later in 2022. As with the current leased Heron 1 UAVs that were used in Afghanistan and Mali, the plan for the Heron TP was that they were to be used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), with no kinetic weapons capabilities. This decision was made for political reasons, owing to Berlin's refusal to sanction the arming of UAVs.

While the Bundeswehr did not say why the decision to enable the Heron TPs to be armed had been made at this time, it is likely part of a wider beefing up of Germany's defence posture following Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

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