For the first time, the federal government has admitted that it is looking into the use of kamikaze drones in a practical manner. “The Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Use of the Bundeswehr is currently conducting a study to create a strategy for loitering ammunition with the contractor AMDC GmbH,” said Parliamentary Secretary of State for Defense Thomas Hitschler (SPD) recently in response to a request from left-wing member of the Bundestag Andrej Hunko. These are guided missiles that are initially launched without a specific target and circle over a targeted area for a long time. If a worthwhile object is spotted, it is assigned and attacked by an operator on the ground via data link.
The IT office of the armed forces and the Bavarian engineering company with core competencies in the armaments sector are currently examining the market, Hitschler explained. In this context, “three systems from different manufacturers” from Israel – Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Uvision Air – “for further assessment” have already been procured. “The systems have not yet been tested at this point in time.” The concrete tests should follow soon: Hitschler’s colleague Siemtje Möller (SPD) said in response to a request from Hunko on Wednesday: “According to the current planning status, the procured systems will be assessed from 2024.”
In September, the government was still concerned
According to Möller, the study contract includes a “roadmap for loitering ammunition”. Accordingly, a roadmap for the potential use of such kamikaze drones is to be drawn up, which was mentioned for the first time in 2021. The Federal Ministry of Defense would then have to decide on its implementation. In September 2022, the government had emphasized in a response to a request from the left-wing faction: “The global proliferation of ‘Loitering Munition’, which is being forced by past and current conflicts and wars”, represents a worrying from a security policy perspective “regardless of the degree of automation of the systems development.” This applies above all with a view to “the potential threat to the Bundeswehr and the armed forces of allied countries”. At that time, no projects for the procurement of such smart weapons had been pursued. In principle, the local military should be able to arm its Heron TP military drones, which were obtained from Israel.
IAI builds the Harop weapon system. This mixture of drone and cruise missile was used by the Azerbaijani armed forces against Armenian troops in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Uvision sells various models of its Hero family, which emerged from the Wasp and Blade Arrow systems. These are high-tech weapons with four wings that unfold automatically after firing. With its FireFly system, Rafael is the only manufacturer whose loitering ammunition can take off vertically with two counter-rotating rotors.
Why Uvision could have an advantage
“To promote domestic industry, the contract could go to Uvision,” the “New Germany” looks to the future. The Haifa-based company cooperates with the Düsseldorf armaments group Rheinmetall. Based on this cooperation, he recently presented a combat drone that serves as a kind of mother airship for several multicopters equipped with grenades. The intelligent, remote-controlled ammunition should be able to spot, control and destroy enemy weapons and kill opponents. The Luna NG reconnaissance drone is currently planned as the carrier system for the droppable rotorcraft grenades.