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Germany Embraces Drone Warfare in Response to Russian Threat



Key Points:

  • The German military is actively pursuing the creation of a dedicated “drone army” in response to the evolving security landscape and lessons learned from the Ukraine conflict.
  • The CDU/CSU parliamentary group has put forward a comprehensive proposal outlining the key elements of this drone force, emphasizing cross-dimensional integration, extensive training, and technological sovereignty.
  • The proposal explicitly links the need for a drone army to the growing threat posed by Russia and the urgent need for military modernization within NATO.

Germany Races to Establish a “Drone Army” 

The German military is undergoing a significant transformation, shifting its focus towards drone warfare in response to the evolving security landscape. Inspired by the pivotal role of drones in the Ukraine conflict, the German government is pushing for the establishment of a dedicated “drone army” encompassing air, land, and sea capabilities.

Ukraine: A Case Study in Drone Warfare

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is a compelling real-world demonstration of the transformative effect of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, on contemporary military operations. UAVs have consistently proven to be highly valuable assets, fulfilling critical roles in surveillance, target acquisition, and direct engagement with enemy forces.

Ukraine’s strategic and tactical deployment of drones against an adversary possessing a theoretical technological advantage highlights the inherent value proposition of UAVs. Their cost-effectiveness relative to traditional manned aircraft and operational flexibility makes them an attractive option for force modernization, even for nations with constrained defense budgets. The conflict showcases the ability of even relatively low-cost drones to disrupt operations, gather intelligence, and inflict significant damage, challenging traditional assumptions about the balance of power in modern warfare.

CDU/CSU Proposal: A Blueprint for Drone Dominance

The push for a German drone army gained momentum in May 2024, with the CDU/CSU parliamentary group submitting a comprehensive proposal to the Bundestag. The proposal outlines a multi-faceted approach, emphasizing the need for:

  • Cross-Dimensional Integration: The drone army would be integrated across all branches of the German military, ensuring seamless coordination and information sharing.
  • Comprehensive Training: All soldiers would receive training on drone operation, countermeasures, and combat tactics.
  • Guaranteed Procurement Agreements: With guaranteed contracts, the German defense industry would play a key role in ensuring a steady supply of drones and related technologies.
  • Technological Sovereignty: A focus on cybersecurity and reliance on components from NATO or equivalent countries, preferably domestically sourced.

Investment in Cutting-Edge Technologies

Beyond basic drones, the proposal emphasizes investment in advanced technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), swarm technology, and autonomous capabilities. These developments promise to enhance the effectiveness of drone warfare further, enabling sophisticated autonomous operations and coordinated attacks.

Addressing the Russian Threat

The CDU/CSU proposal explicitly links the need for a drone army to Russia’s growing threat. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s “Zeitenwende” speech in 2022 signaled a major shift in German defense policy, acknowledging the need for a more robust military posture. Experts warn that Russia could pose a conventional challenge to NATO within the next five to eight years, underscoring the urgency of modernization efforts.

Lessons Learned from Heron TP Deployment

Germany’s experience with the Israeli-made Heron TP drone has provided valuable insights into drone warfare’s operational and logistical aspects. Initially intended for overseas missions, the Heron TP is now being deployed for domestic defense, highlighting the versatility of these platforms.

The push for a drone army marks a significant departure for the Bundeswehr, traditionally focused on conventional military doctrines. The CDU/CSU proposal argues that this transformation is essential for Germany to effectively protect its interests and contribute to NATO’s collective defense in the 21st century.

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