Germany is planning to purchase more than a dozen military drones over the next few years, according to a report in a news magazine. This comes shortly after the ministry abandoned plans to build the Euro Hawk drone.
The report, published in the online edition of "Spiegel" news magazine on Tuesday said Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere planned to buy as many as 16 of the unmanned aircraft, with five to be operational by 2016.
It also said representatives of Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr, had already met with US officials regarding the possible purchase of Predator drones, as well as Israeli officials about that country's Heron drones.
According to the report, which cited a paper which the ministry prepared in response to a parliamentary query from the opposition Social Democrats, Washington has already approved the purchase.
It also said that de Maiziere would reserve the right to arm German drones. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is expected to sign off on the deal at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
The report comes just two weeks after the defense department announced that it had scrapped plans to build the high-altitude Euro Hawk reconnaissance drone.
The controversial move came after the government had pumped more than half a billion euros into the program. Flight clearance issues were a key factor in the ministry's decision to ground the project.
The Euro Hawk was to have been a larger, more advanced version of the RQ-4B Global Hawk made by Northrop Grumman. From a cruising altitude of around 20,000 meters (65,600 feet), the Global Hawk can remain airborne for up to 40 hours.
pfd/kms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)