Germany’s plans to lease Israeli-made “Eitan” drones were suspended on Wednesday, after German lawmakers raised concerns over weapons systems installed on the unmanned aircraft.
Following a visit to Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) facilities by a German parliamentary delegation, members of the Social Democratic Party raised objections over the armament of the “Eitan” UAVs, and demanded that the weaponized drones be replaced by unarmed drones for intelligence-gathering only.
Social Democratic lawmaker Karl Heinz Brunner told the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth that the removal of the deal from the German budget committee’s agenda was a “shame,” and said that “we would gladly lease UAVs for intelligence missions.”Germany’s Green Party welcomed the decision to scrap the deal, with party member Agnieszka Broger telling Yedioth that the use of attack drones “often contributes to escalation in the level of violence and is contrary to international law.
“The decision by the German army to lease the Heron TP drones, also known as the “Eitan”, was announced by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen in January for temporary use until 2025 when development of a joint German, Italian, and French drone is expected to be completed.
The postponement of the estimated 1 billion euro deal (approximately $1.14 billion) is a significant loss for both the German Defense Ministry and IAI.
But it is not the first time the procurement has come under scrutiny.
The deal was the subject of a legal challenge by US defense firm General Atomics last year, which protested the rejection of their contract in favor of the Israeli contract, questioning why Germany was leasing Israeli drones rather than purchasing the firm’s less expensive Predator B model.
Israel’s Heron drones, known as the Eitan (“Steadfast”), have a range of over 7,400 kilometers and can remain airborne for over 70 hours.