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I spent the weekend writing a primer about #drones for #Drohnendebatte2020. It's not published yet (coming soon), but in the meantime a few thoughts on the German armed drones debate which I have been following and researching for a decade. (thread)
A bit of historical context: The German armed drone debate is as old as I am. In the late 1980s, the Bundeswehr first looked into armed #drones. Two systems - the KDH 'Kampfdrohne Heer' and the DAR 'Drohne Anti-Radar' were developed. Both were more loitering munition than drone..
... and both were eventually abandoned. Their requirements too technologically advanced for their time (autonomy, swarming etc), and their funding ended as the Cold War came to an end.
In 2001 the US armed their Predator #drones, and the Afghanistan war began. The first Bundeswehr soldiers arrived in Afghanistan in January 2002. They didn't bring any (unarmed) drones with them, as they barely had any.
Over the next 12 years (ISAF mandate ended Dec 2014), the German Bundeswehr used five #drone types in Afghanistan. All were surveillance systems, four of five were used by the army rather than the air force, four of five were German-made.
Afghanistan proved crucial for German #drone use. Most of the drones that the Bundeswehr flew were procured specifically for the Afghanistan mission. And it was because of the experiences in Afghanistan that some began to argue for arming Germany's drones.
An armed #drone is basically a surveillance drone that also carries armament (mostly rockets, sometimes bombs). Armed drones tend to be larger, more technologically sophisticated systems (though that is changing atm).
Armed #drones can be used in a number of different ways. This point is absolutely crucial - the armed drone doesn't determine HOW it is used. This point was often overlooked in the German debate. (more on this later)
Namely, armed drones can be used to accompany and monitor troops on the ground, and, in case of an armed attack, can support the troops with firepower. Armed drones can also be used to follow individual enemy combatants and kill them - the so-called 'targeted killings'.
In 2012, then-defence minister de Maiziere began the debate on arming German #drones that is still going on today. In an interview he supported procured armed drones for the Bundeswehr. The Luftwaffe inspector and the armed forces commissioner supported the plan.
Since then however, the debate on German armed #drones has been going in circles (to the point that I regularly post articles I wrote back in 2013 as they are pretty much still valid...)
What is the problem? In one sentence: it's the US. And it's us.
From the very beginning the German #drone debate was influenced - and I would go so far and say it was poisoned - by the way the US used its armed drones: for targeted killings outside official battlespaces.
The US, and specifically the CIA, has been using armed drones for almost 20 years now to kill individuals they consider enemy combatants in places the US is not officially at war with, most notably Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
The large majority of international law experts considers this practice illegal, and many activist groups in the US and elsewhere have protested against this practice.
But there are few places where it had such an important impact on another country's #drone debate as in Germany
In Germany, in the public mind, as well as in the political debate, armed #drones were equated with targeted killing. It is striking, how much space US drone use got in the German debate.
I have written about this here in @BerlinPolicy :…
Partly, this was due to timing. Although the US had begun targeted killings via #drones in 2004, this practice only became a topic of public debate in the early 2010s - the time when Germany began discussing armed drone procurement.
What also didn't help was the "Eurohawk" debacle - a 500million Euro project to procured an (unarmed) drone for the Luftwaffe that failed in 2013.
I was a young PhD student in Oxford at the time and wrote about it then:…
But more than anything else, the fact that the association in Germany was armed drone = illegal targeted killing meant that it was difficult if not impossible to have a sensible discussion about armed drones for the Bundeswehr.
Which always struck me as strange, as - personal opinion - there really is no good reason to believe that Germany would start using drones in the way the CIA does. The government even wrote down in their coalition agreement that they opposed extra-legal killings with drones.
Drone operations also require a mandate from the Bundestag, and the Federal Republic just doesn't have an organisation like the CIA, and certainly not a tradition of meddling in other countries' affairs in the way the US does.
I'm off to do an interview (on #drones 😁), will be back in a bit.
Reminder: the #Drohnendebatte2020 starts at 1pm German time and there is a livestream:…
Another aspect of the German #drone debate: Germany's role in the US drone operations in Pakistan and elsewhere. Because the signals for US drones go through Germany - through Ramstein air base in southwest Germany.
In theory this shouldn't really influence the debate on German armed drones*, in practice a lot of things were mixed up, so this was often mentioned in the same debates.

*in the sense that one can for ex. be for armed drone procurement for Germany,but against the Ramstein link.
So, where to go from here? The agreement in Germany is now to only procure armed drones/ armament for its #drones after an "extensive legal (international and domestic law) and ethical debate".
I am all for more German debate on security policy (hello @Sicherheitspod! 😊)...
...but it seems a bit tricky to me how to decide that there has been enough debate 🤷‍♀️. Especially since compared to pretty much any other military topic other than nukes in the late 70s and 80s, #drones have gotten a lot of attention in Germany.
Today's #Drohnendebatte2020 is only the beginning - I so hope that we can now discuss the topics that are relevant to Germany and the Bundeswehr, rather than discuss the CIA's use of drones in Pakistan and elsewhere.
I'll add a few pieces of writing on the topic that I've done over the years, for those interested. I will be live-tweeting the #Drohnendebatte2020 - in English - from 1pm Germany/noon UK time.

For @CNASdc I wrote 👇…
On armed #drones used by non-state actors, I wrote this for @WarOnTheRocks…
In German on #drone proliferation:
Verbreitung von unbemannten Flugzeugen für den militärischen Gebrauch…
"Welche Drohne passt zu mir? Deutschlands schwierige Entscheidung für ein bewaffnetes 'Unmanned Aerial Vehicle'"…
For @DIEZEIT in 2018 I wrote this 👇
(I'm no longer linking to Zeit online because of their tracking policy)
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