German Coalition Agrees on $166 Million Budget to Arm Drones

German Coalition Agrees $166 Million Budget for Arming Drones

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ruling coalition sealed a deal to arm German drones, approving a defense ministry request to purchase ammunition worth 152 million euros ($166 million) from Israel’s state-run Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.

The decision to arm the Israeli-made Heron-TP drones, leased by the German military, is part of a wider shift in Berlin’s defense policy triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Scholz in late February announced the creation of a debt-financed special fund worth 100 billion euros to modernize the Bundeswehr armed forces and meet NATO’s annual defense spending goal of 2% of economic output each year.

The Bundeswehr has been demanding armed drones for years to help protect soldiers during missions abroad and back up military convoys in dangerous terrain. Combat drones could also play a role in defending Germany and NATO allies. Until now, the army has only used drones for reconnaissance purposes, including in Mali.

German Coalition Agrees on $166 Million Budget to Arm Drones

Lawmakers on the lower house of parliament’s defense committee approved the government’s request to purchase 140 rockets to arm the Heron drones, according to people familiar with the decision, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.

Sixty rockets will be purchased for training purposes and 80 for possible use in combat, the people said. The meeting was not open to the public.

The lower house’s budget committee approved the move, according to a statement from the defense ministry. A draft resolution for the committee obtained by Bloomberg News says that the drones can only be used in combat if parliament has explicitly approved it.

The Bundestag’s budget committee is also expected on Thursday to give the green light to preliminary plans for spending a first tranche of 2.4 billion euros out of the 100 billion euros from the military fund.

The defense ministry wants to spend the cash on purchasing new gear including more than 305,000 bulletproof vests, 150,000 combat uniforms, 122,000 helmets and 250,000 backpacks.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.