Reichstag Blocks Arming German UAVs Over Targeted Killing Issue

A lack of consensus in Germany’s parliament between the left-wing and conservatives parties successfully blocked further talks on equipping the Bundeswehr with armed drones. The German Armed Forces were denied the purchase of new UAVs equipped with missiles a year ago. However, the issue has not been resolved and actions of the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) grounded the much needed equipment purchase.

In mid-2020 the Bundeswehr received Israeli Heron-TP drones with the intention of equipping them with guided missiles in order to enhance the protection of troops deployed abroad. German soldiers lack a UAV platform capable of delivering a lethal blow to enemy forces. In Mali, the soldiers are forced to rely on air support missions which take time to deliver their strikes on target.

The issue of delayed air support response in the region proved lethal for US Special Operation Group soldiers in 2017 during the Tongo-Tongo ambush where 4 operators lost their lives.

The SPD’s leader, Norbert Walter-Borjans, said that “the line between defending the lives of our soldiers and killing with a joystick is extremely thin.”

The Bundeswehr hoped to obtain the capability of arming the drones before Christmas. The German Ministry of Defense had already prepared the purchase contract of the missiles. However, with no agreement between the German left and right, the contact is unissued and Bundeswehr frustration grows.

The purchase of armament for the drones does not solve the issue at all. In the opinion of Anja Dahlmann, from the Berlin-based thinktank the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, there are too few drones to make a difference for the national security of Germany. However, the assets to target insurgents threatening soldiers on peacekeeping missions might increase their safety and survivability by the possiblity of immediate action to m neutralize threats.

The ideological and moral issues surrounding targeted strikes is a subject which continues to divide politicians. Armed drones go against the philosophy of humanitarianism which has been a key tenent of the German parliament since the Second World War. Nonetheless, soldiers are the ones who count on additional assets, like drones, in order to conduct their missions safely and successfully when from home, fulfilling the state’s foreign policies.