At a recent debate on the use of armed drones in Cologne, Germany, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg expressed his support as a way of protecting soldiers’ lives on the front line. The debate was about technology in future warfare.

Stoltenberg told the German press that the organization would use armed drones in line with international law as an extra layer of support for soldiers on the front line. He added that the drones would reduce the number of pilots being sent into harm’s way.

The news comes as the German coalition government has been debating whether armed drones should be allowed. The debate has focused heavily on whether the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, should lease IAI Heron drones equipped with missiles.

Earlier in the month, the SPD party declined to support the ordering of drones equipped with missiles. They said that the ethical aspects of using them hadn’t been debated in full yet.

The announcement was a surprise to all, as officials studied the issue for around a year before handing over their results to lawmakers in the country. A spokesperson for the SPD party who said he backs the use of armed drones in limited situations stepped down from his position in protest. He said the claim of the debate not being completed was dishonest.

Stoltenberg’s support of the drones is not likely to sway anyone’s opinions but has definitely stirred up the debate. The drone debate has been going on for the last seven years, and it doesn’t look like a decision will be made anytime soon.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron drone

The IAI Heron drone has a wingspan of 54 feet 6 inches and a capacity of 551 pounds. The drone uses a Rotax 914 four-cylinder engine producing 115 horsepower. Heron has a maximum speed of 129 miles per hour and can stay in the air for up to 52 hours at a time. Fourteen countries, including the US and Australia, have used the Heron drones.

IAI has since shown off its Super Heron drone, which includes a 200 horsepower diesel engine that improves the climb rate and performance. It has a top speed of 170 miles per hour and cruises at around 69 to 92 miles per hour. The Super Heron is capable of flying up 160 miles away when flown in line of sight or 620 miles by satellite control. Still, it’s less than the Long Runner operating system now allows.

Photo: NATO


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