By Yona Schnitzer
Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, has approved a €1 Billion deal to lease unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) made by the Israel Aerospace Industries. The combat UAVs are capable of carrying weapon payloads and are expected to be deployed by German forces in Mali and Afghanistan.
Germany will pay €720 million to lease seven UAVs, including five operational units, and two for training. In addition to the UAVs, Berlin will pay €177 million to the Israeli government for the use of airport, command center and maintenance services.
Beyond the economic significance of the deal, this will be the first time that German soldiers will have an ongoing military presence in Israel. German UAV crews will be trained in Israel, most likely at the Tel Nof Air Force base. A total of 85 different crews are expected to be trained over the course of nine years.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the agreement a “tremendous contribution to the Israeli defense industry and the Israeli economy,” and added that the deal is “an expression of the strategic partnership between Germany and Israel and a testament to the potential of the Israeli industry to contribute to countries such as Germany.”
The deal was originally scheduled to be signed last year but was scuttled following opposition from the opposition Social Democratic Party.