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[News] German dumpling in the Red Sea. An American drone targeted

(B2) Operation Aspides begins well for the Germans. The Hessen frigate, which has just arrived in the area of ​​operation, almost shot down an American Reaper-type drone on Monday (February 26). Fortunately she missed the shot...

The command room of the frigate Hessen (credit: Bundeswehr)

It was Monday (February 26), just days after the Bundestag approved (the previous Friday) its engagement in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to defend merchant ships against Houthi attacks in the framework of the European operation EUNAVFOR Aspides.

An unknown drone approaches the frigate Hessen

« A drone was seen, but it was unclear whether it could be dangerous » reports Michael Stempfle, spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense, during the government press briefing on Wednesday (February 28). “ A question was asked of deployed partners or allies ". No response apparently.

An unsuccessful shot

The frigate then “ tried to shoot down the drone ". Without success… " The two long-range Standard Missile 2 (SM2) interceptor missiles missed their target for technical reasons », according to our colleague Thomas Wiegold of Augergeradeaus, A happy coincidence! Because the famous unknown drone was in fact an American MQ-9 Reaper type surveillance drone. The fact " that the drone was not hostile only became clear later » recognizes the ministry spokesperson.

Explanation: an American fault?

The explanation is technical. The American drone was moving at high speed in the operational zone (…) without the transponder for identification friend-foe (IFF, Identification Friend-Foe) being turned on and without information Allied operations centers » explains our colleague quoting a German official. In an area in which there were 15 merchant ships, therefore a potential risk for them, the commander of the Hessen therefore ordered the firing. If we listen to the Germans, it would somehow be the fault of the Americans.

As in the manual

For the Chief of Staff of the German Navy, Inspector General Jan Christian Kaack, in fact, there was no error. The sailors reacted well, “ by applying the procedure as in the manual ". The drone was clearly classified as hostile. “ The decision to fire was taken in accordance with agreed rules and after consultation with command., he clarified. “ I would have acted exactly the same way as commander ", Kaack told the DPA news agency, according to the weekly Spiegel. From " the incident was analyzed and the weakness was corrected » specifies the spokesperson for the ministry.

Comment: coordination to be reviewed

This incident actually covers two errors. The first is the misidentification of the Reaper drone. Worth around $15 million, it would be a shame if it were lost at sea due to mutual misunderstanding. The other, less serious, is the shooting error. If the drone had been truly hostile, it could have been a tragic mistake for either the frigate Hessen or the merchant ships next to it. Basically, the political destiny of Minister Boris Pistorius hung by a hair. This double error shows in any case that coordination between NATO Allies is not really at its best, even though the ships regularly train together. This also demonstrates a certain amateurism of the Germans who discovered combat at sea.

In short, all this is not very serious... and will surely deserve, behind closed doors, serious explanations: within the German navy and between allies.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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