The German media reports that the government wants to use the Heron UAVs it leases from Israel Aerospace Industries to defend against potential Russian attacks on critical infrastructures.
Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which the Germany government has leased in a long-term deal could soon be deployed by the German military to oversee the country’s critical energy infrastructure and monitor movements of the Russian naval fleet – the German media has reported over the past few days. The reports also say that the German parliament has asked the German Air Force to immediate redeploy the UAVs (drones) to provide protection against potential Russian sabotage.
The Germans leased five Heron-TP UAVs, together with two training UAVs in 2016 in a deal worth nearly €1 billion. The deal has been expanded over the past two years. Since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war, the German parliament has decided to let the UAVs be armed with Israeli-made missiles, and begin German Army missions beyond Europe’s borders at an initial cost of €140 million. Over the past two years dozens of German Air Force pilots have been training at the Israel Air4 Force base in Tel Nof in how to operate the UAVs, as part of the overall deal signed with the Israeli government and Israel Aerospace Industries.
The concerns: Russia will try to hit infrastructures
Now, due to the escalating security situation in Europe, there are resolute calls to convert use of the UAVs so that they can oversee Germany’s critical energy infrastructures. Last month’s mysterious explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which is still being investigated, and concerns that Russia will try to hit civilian infrastructures, like the gas pipeline from Norway and other locations. An incident in which communications lines of the railways were cut near Hamburg, causing massive rail disruptions, is also being investigated.
In recent weeks, Russia has been attacking Ukrainian infrastructure installations including water and electricity, and this has demonstrated for the Germans the danger of hitting infrastructures, especially during the winter when the population is dependent on electricity and heating.
German Member of Parliament Johannes Arlt from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), a member of the government coalition, last week proposed to use the leased UAVs to protect German gas and energy infrastructures. German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, also from the SDP, called for a significant increase in infrastructures protection. “With the help of the UAVs and their radar, we will be able to monitor wide areas and respond quickly to any disorder,” Arlt told “Der Spiegel.” “Due to Russian threats,” Arlt said, “we must quickly create the legal basis that will allow use of these UAVs for national security purposes.”
Use of UAVs is currently not permitted in German airspace. However, the “Deutsche Zeitung” cited the Ministry of the Interior which recently reported that the Israeli-made drones will soon move to an activity base in their parent squadron, at the Buchel Air Force base where they will perform “trial flights.”
According to the report, the Garman Army aims to create a legal basis that will allow their use also for national security purposes within Germany’s borders, and not only overseas. The triial flights are planned to take place over the next year. The use of UAVs is possible “for specific needs” and as long as it “does not cause disruption to civilian aircraft traffic.”
The EU is trying to produce its own armed UAVs called the “Eurodrone” and leasing UAVs from Israel and arming them with missiles is considered an “interim solution.”
Germany officially announced last month that it plans procuring the “Arrow 3” system from Israel, subject to US approval, in a deal that will cost an estimated €3 billion and will protect Germany and other countries from ballistic missiles.