22/12/2020

NATO chief wades into fiery German debate on armed UAVs

NATO chief wades into fiery German debate on armed drones – link

Source: Defense News

Article Headlines
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he supports the use of armed drones to protect soldiers’ lives, wading into a fierce debate in Germany about buying such technology for future operations
  • Stoltenberg told the German press agency DPA that the alliance would use weaponized unmanned aircraft in accordance with international law and in support of deployed troops. “These drones can support forces on the ground and reduce the number of pilots we send in harm’s way,” he was quoted as saying
  • His comments come as the question of arming drones has caused a major kerfuffle between the CDU and SPD parties, which form Germany’s coalition government
  • Specifically, the disagreement is about whether the Bundeswehr should be allowed to lease Israeli-made Heron TP drones armed with missiles. More broadly, though, the debate is about different visions for Germany as a participant in the military fabric of the West
  • Earlier this month, the SPD leadership decided to reject the acquisition of armed drones in principle, arguing that a broad debate here on ethical aspects of their use had not yet taken place, as prescribed in the government’s coalition agreement
Overview & Comments
  • The notion of UAVs being “armed robots” shooting at their will or the operators being “not actually in the fight”, thus arguing the moral card, could not be farther from the current operational methods, especially in asymmetric warfare currently representing active hotspots
  • UAS Operators, though physically far from the area of operations, are mentally closer to the scene usually more than other manned ISR / aerial attack assets
  • The mission picture / situational awareness of the events on scene are much clearer to UAS crews as opposed to other assets that are kept further away
  • The ability to directly communicate in real time with the relevant ground, sea & aerial forces eliminates the “disadvantage” of physically sitting in a GCS far away
  • The fact that the crews are not in personal physical danger allow them to take much more thoughtful, careful & calculated decisions
  • Worldwide, UAVs use the same high precise armaments as other aerial strike platforms with a human always making the strike call – “Man in the loop”
  • More so, UAVs are to be fitted with even smaller pin-point munitions, such as the Hatchet, thus reducing even more any potential collateral damage
  • The political decision in Germany is highly contrary to German crews who operated in theater stating that when they encountered direct threats to German ground forces they did not have the ability to immediately support them, thus relying on other assets that couldn’t always assist in real time
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