German air force wants drones for future conflicts
BERLIN — The head of Germany's air force called Thursday for Berlin to buy controversial missile-armed Predator drones for future conflicts.
Germany lags behind such nations as the US and Israel in adopting the new technology. The country's influential post-war pacifist movement has opposed any acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fearing they might kill civilians.
Lieutenant-General Karl Muellner said strict rules of engagement would meet those objections.
"There is not a single case where we haven't stuck to the rules," he said.
Germany's armed-forces contingent in Afghanistan, which is set to withdraw by late 2014, is currently operating three Heron 1 drones leased from Israel, but they are only usable for reconnaissance missions and are not armed.
The US-made Predator, introduce in 1995, is fitted with Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and has been used extensively by the US in eastern Afghanistan and adjoining areas of Pakistan.
Muellner criticized ground deployments of German forces abroad, saying the cost was out of proportion to the returns, and praised air interventions, saying, "Given the option, it's to be preferred."
No immediate comment was available from the opposition Left Party, which opposes military expansion.
The Green Party referred to a July statement by its disarmament spokeswoman, Agnieszka Brugger, who called purchase of drones without a review of their legality and public debate "irresponsible."
"There's no reason for haste about this," said Rainer Arnold, a Social Democratic defence spokesman, calling for the issue to wait until after next year's general election.