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Reaper drone reports

April 30, 2013

The German government and military have made clear their wish to acquire armed drones to complement the existing unmanned surveillance fleet. According to a news report, this process has advanced in Washington.

A handout photograph dated 21 June 2008 and made available by the British Ministry of Defence on 27 April 2013 showing a MQ-9 Reaper UAV from British Royal Air Force 39 Squadron waiting before taking off into the nights sky above Afghanistan. The British Ministry of Defence reports on 27 April 2013 that the British Royal Air Force has operated Reaper drones remotely controlled from RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, England. They further state that the drones are currently being used for surveillance but could be called on to use their weapon systems if needed. (Photo: CROWN COPYRIGHT HANDOUT)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The news magazine Spiegel reported on Tuesday that a German diplomatic visit to Washington was bearing military fruit.

According to a report on Spiegel's online portal, the US was ready to approve an official German request for three armed MQ-9 Reaper drone aircraft (formerly known as the "Predator B") and four ground control stations, to be filed in May this year. Spiegel cited a representative of the German Defense Ministry. According to the source, the US Congress approved the move in theory on April 10.

Germany already has unmanned aircraft, the nonweaponized Heron 1 drone, in service over Afghanistan. They are on loan until October 2014. The Bundeswehr has no unmanned aircraft with firepower.

Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, both members of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrat alliance, conclude a joint visit to Washington on Tuesday.

De Maiziere was set to meet his US counterpart, Chuck Hagel, on Tuesday. Germany filed a preliminary request for the delivery of some form of drone aircraft early in 2012. The aircraft cost roughly $17 million (13 million euros) per unit. Germany was also reportedly considering the purchase of the Israeli-built Heron TP drone.

The issue of drone purchases prompted sometimes contentious debate in German parliament. Owing to its 20th-century history, Germany retains a strictly nonviolent, defense-only military mandate. Opposition politicians, and some within the government's ranks, have questioned whether unmanned aircraft armed with rockets are compatible with this.

A Forsa survey released earlier in April suggested that only 12 percent of Germans supported the use of armed drones in all circumstances. A majority of 59 percent approved the idea, however, provided that the aircraft were only used to ward off clear and present danger.

msh/mkg (AFP, dpa)