REUTERS - German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday announced plans for the army to lease Heron TP drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) rather than buy Predator B drones from U.S. defense contractor General Atomics.
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General Inspector Volker Wieker, head of the army, favors the Israeli drones which like the Predator B can be armed, government sources said, adding Germany planned to lease between three and five drones from 2018.
The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are to be stationed in Israel and will cost about 580 million euros.
"This is about drones that can be armed, that will be standard in the future," von der Leyen told reporters. "It is important for the protection of soldiers," she said, adding she would provide more information once the contracts had been agreed.
Germany already has three earlier versions of the Heron reconnaissance drone which are deployed in Afghanistan. They are maintained by Airbus and cannot be armed.
The new drones are to serve as an interim measure until the EU has developed its own, von der Leyen said.
Germany, France, Italy and Spain plan to jointly develop a drone by 2025.