COLOGNE, Germany — German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said she will continue to push for armed drones in the military, after lawmakers this week insisted on keeping the Franco-German Eurodrone weaponless for now.
The parliamentary Budget Committee on April 14 allowed the program to proceed with two caveats: The Defence Ministry is not authorized to purchase ammunition for the unmanned aircraft, and there can be no “tactical weapons training” for system operators, lawmakers wrote.
The decision comes after Social Democrats, the junior partner in a coalition government with the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, signaled their blanket disapproval of weaponized drones. The center-left party argued that ethical considerations have yet to be fully discussed, despite a public campaign by Kramp-Karrenbauer’s ministry toward that end last year.
Writing on Twitter on April 16, the defense minister thanked lawmakers for allowing the Eurodrone program to proceed, a key stepping stone in the Franco-German alliance that’s meant to lift the European Union’s defense capabilities in the coming years.
At the same time, she stressed she will continue campaigning for weaponized drones used to protect German forces in the Bundeswehr.
The debate has dragged on here for years, fueled in large part by U.S. drone strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq that were seen as indiscriminate. The Bundeswehr has argued targeted killings would never be a mission for German drones, saying the weapons would fire only in defense of ground forces.
Lawmakers also slapped new reporting requirements on the Eurodrone project, led here by Airbus Defence and Space. Defense officials must tell parliament about cost developments twice a year, starting in January 2022. In addition, lawmakers want to see in those reports include data on workshare packages performed in Germany, as agreed in an eventual contract.
Cross-referencing the Eurodrone progress with other defense cooperation programs is allowed only with parliamentary approval, lawmakers wrote.
That requirement affects mostly the other big-ticket programs underway with France: the Future Combat Air System and the Main Ground Combat System. Some lawmakers here fear that political and industrial horse trading among those efforts could disadvantage Germany.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.