Report by the Federal Ministry of Defense to the German Parliament re. Drone Procurement

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Berlin, 3 July 2020

Report by the Federal Ministry of Defense to the German Parliament on the debate about a possible procurement of armed drones for the Bundeswehr

Summary

The present report represents the results of the series of events held by the Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg) on the question of the procurement of armed drones (Unmanned Aircraft Systems, UAS), in the context of which a broad and inclusive debate on the aspects of international law, constitutional law, ethics, and politics concerned took place. It also sheds light on the operational military benefits of armed drones for the Bundeswehr and the basic concepts of their employment. In addition, a summary of the principles for the employment of German armed UAS is enclosed as an annex to this report. The report is intended to serve as a basis for the impending parliamentary consideration and decision.

The Constitution requires in principle the prior constitutive consent of the German Bundestag for every employment of armed German armed forces. This includes armed UASs. With regard to the requirements of international and constitutional law, the employment of UASs does not differ from the employment of other weapon systems.

The examination for the employment of an armed drone is done according to the ‟rules of engagement” for the particular deployment. The specific decision to employ the weapon of a drone is taken by the military superior having authority for its approval. The appropriately trained operating personnel, who are in principle stationed near the respective area of deployment, are responsible for its use. Approval is issued regularly in a multi-stage process, with a clear chain of command. Specifications of the operational modalities and the aborting of an operation are possible at all times.

Especially in complex situations and/or in urban areas, such as are already often the reality of deployment for our soldiers today, in missions authorized by the Bundestag, armed UASs prove to be advantageous compared to other airborne weapons systems currently available, and provide additional options for action.

By improved reconnaissance capabilities, and thus also for distinguishing between civilians and combatants, and by the possibility of a scalable employment of weapons (the knowledge of an immediate capacity for response alone may deter an opponent), UASs permit a prompt response that is appropriate to the situation. In this way, both the dictate of humanitarian international law to distinguish between protected civilians and civilian installations on the one hand, and legitimate military targets on the other, and also the ban on excessive force, are taken into account.

Armed drones not only increase the safety and reaction capabilities of our own forces and those of our partners in a mission, they can also contribute signifcantly to the protection of the local civilian population and civilian establishments. Therefore, the MoD and the Bundeswehr advocate the procurement of armed UASs.

1.  Purpose of the report

Since 2014, the procurement and employment of armed drones by the Bundeswehr has been debated intensively in Germany. According to the agreement on the formation of a government coalition between the CDU [Christian Democratic Union], CSU [the Bavarian Christian Social Union], and SPD [Social Democratic Party of Germany] of 2018, the German Bundestag will only decide upon the procurement of the weaponry after a ‟comprehensive evaluation of the international-law, constitutional-law, and ethical aspects” (Chaper XII, item 7, page 159). The present ‛Report of the Federal Ministry of Defense to the German Bundestag on the Debate about a Possible Procurement of Armed Drones for the Bundeswehr’ is intended to serve as a basis for the impending parliamentary consideration and decision. The objective of the report is to describe the debate process initiated by the Ministry of Defense to date, with its facets as demanded by the Coalition Agreement, and thus create the necessary transparency for this decision. Furthermore, it is intended to explain the purpose of arming the drones and present the requirements for the employment of armed UASs from the point of view of the MoD.

1.1 Terminological distinction

In this report, the term UAS is used synonymously with the term ‟drone”. The term ‟drone”, as used colloquially and in the media, is ambiguous, and only describes the flying vehicle itself. By contrast, the term ‟UAS”, whether armed or not, covers the aircraft and also the peripherals necessary for its operation (ground monitoring station, control systems, including satellite communication). In this document, we mean by the term ‟UAS” military, weaponizable, unmanned aircraft systems requiring a permit, which are directed by licensed military pilots, and thus are not autonomous.

UASs – whether armed or not – are remote-controlled systems that are at all times under the control of military personnel specially trained for this purpose, and deployed in the mission area. Specifically, this applies to the German HERON TP, which is to be used until the planned solution (a new multinational European development, the ‟Eurodrone”) is introduced. It should be particularly emphasized that the use of the weapons of the German HERON TP can be aborted, or its parameters altered, at any time. With a UAS, this is often more successful that with weapon systems that act over a greater distance.

So a UAS is not a ‟Lethal Autonomous Weapon System” (LAWS), which escapes entirely from human control. The German government opposes the use of such devices, and advocates their international proscription, as specified in the Coalition Agreement.

2 The debate procedure initiated and accompanied by the MoD

In order to meet the requirements of a broad and inclusive debate mentioned, the MoD has conducted a series of coordinated events. These dealt holistically with, in addition to the operational military benefits of armed UASs, the political, ethical, and legal aspects in particular. The events were directed at various target groups and listeners, including the parliamentary field, representatives of civil society, academics, and the interested public. The debate, designed as an inclusive process, was accompanied from the beginning by intensive media interest, in order to ensure maximum transparency in an open exchange of opinions with the citizenry. Besides ‟classical” reporting, all the events were also distributed in the ‛social media’. A live-stream via the Internet completed the offering to the public of a close exchange with all participants. The debate was also presented barrier-free by the employment of sign-language interpreters.

From the beginning, it was important to the MoD to ensure a subsequent ease of access to all events that were recorded as videos or took place in the form of a virtual ‟chat”. All questions that were posed via e-mail, Twitter, or in a ‛chat’, but could not be dealt with in the events for lack of time, were answered subsequently, and published with the answers.

The MoD did not claim to conducte the debate mentioned in the Coalition Agreement exclusively. So we took positive note of the fact that, after our initiative, numerous people advance their arguments in various articles and formats. Thus one can speak with full justification of a broad debate in society in which the MoD participated.

We wish to present in this report the results of this debate process, the lines of argumentation, the pro and contra, and the basic concepts of the employment of armed UASs by the Bundeswehr.

3  Aspects of international and constitutional law

The debate on the aspects of international and constitutional law showed that there are no special features of international and constitutional law concerning the use of armed UASs. These are carrier systems that in principle are no different from other flying platforms from the legal point of view. The procurement of UASs is allowed; the permissibility of their use depends on the relevant rules of international and constitutional law in the respective context.

Armed UASs offer the possibility of implementing and documenting the decision on the use of the weapons even over great distances, promptly, and incorporating several levels of decision-making. The redundant target checking this guarantees ensures the legal conformance of a use of the weapon and helps to avoid erroneous decisions.

The requirements of international and constitutional law for the employment of armed UASs do not differ from those for the employment of other weapon systems. According to the general principles, the legal framework depends on whether they are employed within or outside of armed conflicts, or in international or non-international armed conflicts. Their employment is subject in addition to the specifications of the Bundestag mandate, and the respective operational guidelines, in particular the ‟rules of engagement” (see Section 6.4).

During an armed conflict, the rules of humanitarian international law apply. A main point is the requirement of constantly distinguishing between civilians and civilian installations under protection, on the one hand, and legitimate military targets on the other hand (the ‟principle of distinction”).

The ban on attacks on military targets in which loss of life among the civilian population, the injuring of civilians, damage to civilian installations, or several such consequences jointly, is to be expected, which is quite disproportionate to the expected specific and direct military advantage (ban on indiscriminate attacks), that also applies in armed conflicts, must also always be observed. UASs with scalable, precise, and minor effects of the weapon in particular could make a contribution to avoiding damage in complex and urban combat situations.

Due to the long duration of their sorties, and high reconnaissance performance, armed UASs permit more accurate decision-making processes, which can make it easier to adhere to the principles presented.

Outside of armed conflicts, the employment of armed UASs can be considered if and insofar as the bases under international law (such as a resolution of the UN Security Council) permit the use of armed force. The employment of armed UASs is conceivable in these situations for self-defense, for example, as well as for protection or performing the mission, if the legal framework applicable to the respective individual case and the operational guidelines are observed.

The MoD considers it especially important to emphasize one aspect: these and other legal bases of the employment of military force are a permanent component of soldiers’ training, and of the understanding of command of all soldiers of the Bundeswehr. The use of drones for extra-legal killings and actions in violation of international law in general contradicts everything that the Bundeswehr stands for since its founding, and is entirely out of the question.

4  Ethical aspects

In the process of debating, critics of arming UASs pointed out that the risk in missions is decoupled. They said it was ethically dubious if the risk for our own soldiers is reduced by armed UASs, while the danger for uninvolved persons is increased. The willingness of UAS pilots to employ the weapons and use military force might sink [sic! – should presumably read ‟rise”], since they were acting at a safe distance and disconnected from combat, without risk to their own lives.

As opposed to this, UAS pilots stated that they were indeed well aware of the significance of their actions. German UAS pilots are – in contrast to the practice of some other nations – always stationed in the operational area, and thus near to the respective operational situation and to their fellow-soldiers who they are supporting with their systems.

During this, German UAS pilots experience the extremely stressful situation of having to watch on their computer screen how their own forces get into immediate danger, and urgently need military support, such as in the case of an enemy ambush. They say that – instead of being able to intervene advantageously with an armed UAS immediately, in order to protect their fellow-soldiers, they sit in a freight container and are ‟condemned to merely watch”.

Combat-experienced Bundeswehr personnel also presented their view during the debates that in the debate on ethics, the respect for the human dignity and the fundamental rights of soldiers, or the duty of care often was given too little attention. Protection of their fellow-soldiers on missions should be given the same value as that of any other person.

In the debates, the ethical question was also discussed of whether UASs are a further step on the path to automation, and in the end to autonomization of military action. Critics emphasized that a decision on the use of armed force that was not taken by people, but by algorithms, was ethically unacceptable.

In this context, it was explained that, in the opinion of the MoD, decisions on the employment of armed UASs and their weapons are [sic] always taken by people. Chapter 6 of this report will describe the procedures and processes of the employment of an armed UAS, insofar as possible abstractly, and discuss in particular the ethical question of autonomization.

In addition, critics pointed ou\\lation, and the accompanying large potential numbers of victims might radicalize the former and contributed to a further escalation of crises and conflicts.

Representatives of the coalition government, and in particular the Inspector-General of the Bundeswehr, objected that the operational practice of other states was not the decisive standard for the operations of UASs of the German armed forces. Furthermore, UASs armed with small, specialized weapons could contribute to protecting the civilian population in complex and urban combat situations.

5  Reasons for arming UASs

The MoD and the Bundeswehr have always advocated the procurement of armed UASs, especially for the better protection of their soldiers in combat, and presented this position in the broad debating process, as well. It is in particular two reasons that support the arming of the UASs, which are explained in detail and illustrated by examples below:

  • better protection of human lives, both of our soldiers and allied forces, as well as of the civilian population in the operational area, and
  •  the possibility of prompt responses appropriate to the situation.

5.1 Better protection of human life

When performing their mission, soldiers risk their health and their lives in international operations mandated by the German Bundestag, to which the Bundeswehr makes substantial contributions. They and the forces of allies and partners have a right to equipment that offers a successful performance of the mission together with a high level of protection.

In all military operations and missions, reconnaissance and defense against threats, supported by airborne systems and weapon systems, an essential element of the protection of our and allied forces, and of persons we are charged with protecting (i.e. the civilian population). This airborne reconnaissance contributes substantially to ensuring our own freedom of operation. A combination of the most modern sensors and highly accurate stand-off weaponry (‛effectors’), with integrated sensor systems if necessary, integrated into the networked operational command structure, is needed.

Example 1: Force protection

The camps in the operational area require permanent protection, since they are often attacked with long-range weapon systems (‟high-angle fire”). For example, the German camp in Kunduz, Afghanistan was attacked repeatedly with rocket and mortars. On 31 August 2019, soldiers in the camp could observe the installation of a rocket position by the Taliban and subsequent firing of 107-mm rockets by means of the reconnaissance UAS Heron 1, which was in their airspace. A total of eight rockets were fired towards the camp, four of which struck the camp. No soldiers were wounded or killed in this attack, because it was at least possible to warn our forces, due the the reconnaissance by the UAS. Here and in similar attacks, an armed UAS could have been employed both for reconnaissance and for a prompt defense appropriate to the situation. In this way, the Taliban launching devices could have been attacked immediately, and the substantial danger to life and limb of our soldiers could have been reduced.

Figure 1: Deployment of an UAS as a contribution to force protection

<in diagram:

Force protection                    Communication & video

Defense against attack        Video/radar surveillance    Communication   Command post     Control station>

Enemy attack                                                       Camp>

The knowledge or suspicion of an immediate reaction capability by an armed UAS alone can deter an opponent (‟show of presence”), without actual use of a weapon being needed. If an escalation is necessary, a UAS can deter directly (‟show of force”) or combat precisely with suitable effectors; depending on the nature and functions of the weaponry, this can even be possible if the target is directly adjacent to our forces and installations requiring protection. In this way, armed UASs can contribute substantially to improving the situation and the security situation for our own and allied forces, as well as for the civilian population, considerably.

In particular UASs with a scalable specialized weapon effect can make a contribution to avoiding civilian damages in complex and urban combat situations better than before. Therefore, the German HERON TP was chosen largely due to the possibility of employing weaponry with a small explosive effect.

5.2 Possibility of a prompt reaction appropriate to the situation

Due to their properties, UASs have various special capabilities. In particular their long flight time, which allows observation of events for hours, and the real-time transmission of data and their low detectability and identifiability should be emphasized.

Foreseeable current and future operational environments of the armed forces will be characterized by a wide battle area with large, often densely populated, spaces to be monitored and undeveloped, almost uninhabited, spaces. The time and place of threats, attacks, or confrontations will often be determined by the enemy. With a small distance between our own or allied forces and the enemy, together with great mobility/agility of asymmetrically-acting forces, a rapid-response and precise target engagement with appropriate effects is absolutely necessary.

By means of the rapidly available, targeted, and scalable weapons effect of accompanying UASs, the desired effect can be achieved better than by means of the delayed employment of weapons by a combat aircraft that has to be specially requested. As a rule, when actually needed, these have to be launched or brought in from their standby area first, due to their substantially shorter flying times.

Furthermore, it must be taken into account that our partners also often have only a limited number of armed UASs, which are frequently tied to other locations in the area of operations.

Example 2: Convoy protection

Usually, a military or civilian/military convoy in the area of operations needs to be monitored and safeguarded. The combination of reconnaissance capability (warning against explosive booby traps or ambushes) and the ability to intervene in the event directly, such as in the case of an attack, that is inherent in armed UASs, is particularly suitable for confronting the dangers. Accompanying convoys with UASs is already a usual practice in United Nations missions, for example the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

Figure 2: Employment of a UAS as a contribution to convoy protection

<in diagram:

Convoy protection   Communication & video

Command post      Control station

Video surveillance    Communication

Attacking

Roadblock with explosive device>

6 Employment of an armed UAS – procedures and processes

The employment of armed UASs always occurs – like the employment of all other weapon systems – within the given legal framework and the respective applicable rules of engagement.

6.1  Mandate

Under the constitution, every mission of armed German armed forces abroad requires the prior constitutive consent of the German Bundestag (the ‟parliamentary proviso”). This applies to the employment of armed UASs, as well.

6.2  Command structure and control

The decision to use a weapon in an armed conflict is taken in principle in a multi-stage procedure, clearly defined in advance for the specific mission. The crew of the UAS in the ground-control station is the implementing level for this. The following sketch shows the ‟command-and-control” structure schematically. The assignment of the weapon systems to a coalition or alliance can be subject to a national proviso (‟caveat”) – see Section 6.4. This procedure is largely identical to the procedure for Tornado operations, for example in the Counter Daesh mission, which many members of the Bundestag were convinced about on mission trips to Inçirlik and Al-Asrak.

In this example of a scenario, our forces are accompanied by an armed UAS (1) which is directed by the ground-control station in the area of operations.

Figure 3: Command and control structure for the armed operation of a UAS

<in diagram:

Constantly                              Video

Communication video        Optical sensor      Optical sensor      Communication video

Our forces                             Enemy forces        Control station     Command post>

The forces on the ground are connected to the crew of the UAS via radio telephony and video transmission. An enemy action is detected by means of the sensor systems (2) and reported to the command post in the area of operations connected. In the command post, which also has the video imagery available, authorization is granted if necessary, after checking the relevant rules of engagement (3) – see Section 6.4.

In case of a decision to use weapon systems by the UAS, the order is given, with a clearly defined target, to the UAS operators (4) in the area of operations. The authorized use of the weapon is usually invoked by the leader of the forces on the ground (5). The selected target can be verified by the weapon’s optical sensor. Afterwards, the UAS remains over the space of operations, and documents damage and the effect of the use of the weapon (Battle Damage Assessment).

In order to be able to assess the situation, and to secure evidence, the sensor data are transmitted continuously to Germany, to the Bundeswehr Operational Command [Einsatzführungskommando]. Further recordings are made in the ground-control station and the aerial-photography analysis section.

This procedure ensures that the picture of the event is available not only to the UAS crew, but, in the framework of this decision-making process, besides the military decision-maker, the legal advisor, the Red Card Holders of the nations involved (holding a veto power which leads to an immediate abortion of the operation), representatives of the area of operations (where applicable), and further decision-makers at higher command levels or expert advisors can be included. In this way, as well as through the possibility of direct communication with the pilots and the leader of the forces in danger, they have a joint picture for consultation and decision-making. Because of this ‟open cockpit”, the danger of misassessment and erroneous decisions is reduced.

6.3  Care and assistance for drone crews

The use of armed drones can result in great mental stress on the drone pilots, and the use of the weapons can lead to a moral dilemma (‟moral injury”). If the mission is supplemented by long working hours, constant employment for years, and a lack of accompanying measures, studies describe increased psychological reactions such as depression, addiction, and burn-out syndromes. PTSD     is fairly rare and occurs less frequently among drone crews that among pilots in the area of operations.

The increased use of drones, or the introduction of armed drones, should therefore be accompanied by active measures to reduce the psychological strain on drone crews. These include general measures for design of the workplace and working hours, to which belong relief phases and professional care and mission follow-up for drone pilots. In addition, there are specific measures, such as for preventive information and psycho-educational training of the drone crews. They must be informed comprehensively on the topic of psychological stresses such as PTSD, ‟moral injury”, depression, etc., via the Psychosoziale Netzwerk. They should be instructed to participate in registering their psychological fitness. In addition, after operations involving the use of weapons, it is important to regularly offer conversations with peers and military psychologists, and to make a psychotherapeutic early intervention possible if necessary. Offering the option of participating in courses of preventive treatment, for example, is also suitable for supporting their psychological fitness, and thus reducing excessive psychological stress on the drone crews, as part of our duty of care.

The MoD and the Bundeswehr are aware of their responsibility for the drone pilots, and will take the necessary measures.

6.4 Rules of Engagement

The Rules of Engagement (RoE) operationalize political, operational, and legal requirements for the use of military force and compulsion in the context of a specific military operation. They are an integral component of the respective rules of operation for the military operation, and mainly represent the understanding of what military actions are necessary and permitted in order to perform an operation successfully, according to the political, military, and legal evaluation. They show the military leader on site – usually up to the tactical level – the framework for the use of military force in a specific operation. The rules of engagement are an integral component of the training of all soldiers in preparation for the mission. The essential contents of the rules of engagement are passed on to the individual soldiers in the form of a document that fits in their trouser pocket, called the ‟pocket card”.

Rules of engagement can, for example, reflect the ban on attacking certain targets contained in humanitarian international law, restrict the authority to attack lawful military targets, forbid the use of certain weapons or agents completely, or specify which command level may permit their use. In order to avoid the soldiers being endangered by enemies who adapt their combat tactics to rules of engagement, the rules of engagement are always classified as Restricted.

Since the rules of engagement depend on the respective circumstances of the individual case, and do not only implement legal requirements, no abstract rules of engagement for UAS pilots, for example, can be defined separated from a specific mission context. However, UAS pilots are, of course, bound to the rules of engagement applying for a specific mission.

In a multinational operation, every nation providing troops can limit the rules of engagement for themselves by national provisos (‟caveats”) – for example, in order to take into account different or stricter legal requirements to which they are tied. These provisos are already taken into account when operations are planned. For example, a German ‟caveat” ensured that German systems in multinational missions are only employed in the field of the area of operations authorized by the German Bundestag. Observation of the national provisos is ensured by a national contact, known as the ‟red card holder”, who makes sure that national provisos are observed in the context of the decision-making and planning processes.

The decision-making process for the use of a weapon varies according to the operation and the applicable legal requirements. It is defined by the nations involved, according to the multinationally-agreed specifications and the national mandates and can take place very quickly in situations where time is critical.

Depending on the respective individual case, the following points may be relevant:

  • Is there a ‟hostile act” or ‟hostile intent”?
  • Which weapon systems are available?
  • Which effect is sought?
  • Can the hostile forces be identified unambiguously (distinction principle)?
  • Is the employment of a UAS necessary or appropriate (principle of military necessity)?
  • Is it to be expected that the use of the weapon will lead to civilian losses that are quite disproportionate to the expected specific and direct military advantage (ban on excessive measures)?
  • How can undesirable collateral damage be minimized?
  • The annex to the present report summarizes the principles for the employment of German armed UASs.
  • Recommendations for further procedure

A possible introduction of a weaponizable platform is not automatically accompanied by its being armed. For a future arming of the German HERON TP, the effectors would have to be procured and certified, and an arms inspection under international law according to Article 36 of the First Supplementary Protocol to the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 on the protection of victim of international armed conflicts be performed, and the operating personnel would have to be trained and licensed.

The employment of armed UASs requires an expanded ground organization in the area of operations, which must be staffed, equipped, and trained in procedures accordingly. Besides the purely aeronautical-engineering aspects, expertise and capacity in munitions technology and logistics is also required.

The provision of these capabilities by armed UASs if needed urgently is not possible at short notice and requires the repeal of the German Bundestag proviso resolution (HHA-Drucksache 19/0699 concerning HHA-Drucksache 19/0194). The procurement of the arming of the German HERON TP, which is intended to be used as a temporary provisional solution, will take at least a year until initial operational readiness, and at least two years until complete operational readiness. A three-stage procedure is planned for producing the weaponizability of the German HERON TP:

  1. Producing the basic technical weaponizability, including integration and certification of the effectors;
  2. After a positive parliamentary consideration by the Bundestag: producing the operational weaponizability, including procurement (after approval of the 25-million-euro bill); plus setting up and carrying out basic training on the weapon system according to the operational concept;
  3. Additional training adapted to the mission, and employment according to the mandate.

The employment of armed UASs also requires well-founded initial training specific to the weapon system of the crews, that ensures effective and reliable handling of the weapon system. In addition, UAS crews must be given further training specific to the operation, that takes into account the legal framework, the specifications of the mandate, and the rules of engagement of the mission concerned.

Furthermore, the German government is striving for binding rules for the employment of armed drones in an international context, as well. For this purpose, the German government is preparing an initiative for international principles of operation. Based on the provisions of international law, a list of principles of operation, such as restriction to legitimate targets, the specification of permissible areas of operation, and ensuring sufficient human supervision, is being derived, which are to be recognized as binding on national operating practice by the signatory states.

8  Final thoughts

Soldiers fulfill their mission – often under difficult conditions. The concept of the Bundeswehr as an army of the parliament, as an armed force firmly anchored in parliamentary democracy, finds expression in particular in the authorized foreign operations. The values and principles of German foreign and national-security policy form the basis of the rules and procedures of engagement of the Bundeswehr. Therefore, our soldiers trust in the best possible protection and the provision of the equipment necessary for this. The UASs that are available to the Bundeswehr today are a valuable assistance, and are urgently needed in many areas of operation. An additional arming of the Bundeswehr UASs would correspond to current operational realities, and is urgently needed.

Annex

PRINCIPLES OF THE EMPLOYMENT OF GERMAN ARMED UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS (UAS)

Definition

1. Armed UASs are unmanned aircraft systems that are controlled remotely by a pilot in the area of operations.

Legal framework of the operation

2. Under the Constitution, the employment of armed UASs always requires the prior constitutive consent of the German Bundestag (‟parliament proviso”).

3. The employment of armed UASs is subject to limits of international and constitutional law, as well as the limits which the Bundestag has set in the mandate for the mission, the area of operations, and the capabilities to be employed.

4. The employment of armed UASs in an armed conflict is only permissible to attack legitimate military targets in the meaning of humanitarian international law. Apart from attacks on legitimate military targets, it is only permissible against persons to defend against an imminent danger to life and limb.

Planning and conducting operations

5. Attacks on legitimate military targets in an armed conflict by armed UASs must not be carried out if it is to be expected that these will lead to losses of human life among the civilian population, injury to civilians, damage to civilian structures, or more than one of such consequences, which is quite disproportionate to the expected specific and immediate military advantage.

6. The choice of the arming of the UAS must be made in a way that ensures that losses among the civilian population, injury to civilians, and damage of civilian structures during attacks on military targets are avoided, or at least restricted to a minimum. When checking the suitable weaponry, the findings of the weapons inspection procedure under Article 36, Supplementary Protocol I, must also be taken into account.

7. Furthermore, in the planning and conducting of operations with armed UASs, especially with regard to the geographical and temporal dimensions of the operation, the psychological effects on the civilian population must be considered.

8. An attack on a legitimate military target in an armed conflict by an armed UAS must be stopped permanently or temporarily if it turns out that the target is not of a military nature, that it enjoys special protection, or if it is to be expected  that it will lead to losses of human life among the civilian population, injury to civilians, damage to civilian structures, or more than one of such consequences, which is quite disproportionate to the expected specific and immediate military advantage.

Command structure and control

9. The military operator operating the armed UAS is integrated in a seamless military chain of command.

10. Use of a weapon by means of a UAS always requires approval at an appropriate level by a military decision-maker (usually a field-grade officer or higher rank), consulting a legal advisor, except in self-defense situations. The principle applies that the more likely civilian collateral damage is, the higher the decision-making level.

11. After a weapon has been used, damage and effects of its use must always be documented without delay (airborne Battle Damage Assessment). If there are indications of civilian victims, a Battle Damage Assessment on the ground must be performed as soon as safety allows.

Rules and training

12.  The above principles are to be further detailed, if possible, by the respective multinational/national bodies responsible, in the light of the specific operational context, for each operation in the framework of the operational plan, the rules of engagement, and other specific instructions. In multinational operations, the observation of these principles can be secured by submitting national provisos.

13. Observation of the principles named at 2 to 11 must be ensured by the general training of soldiers, by the specific, in particular specific to the weapon system, training of the operators, and by the training in preparation for the operation.

Punishment of violations of the rules of engagement

14. Violations of rules of engagement and instructions during the use of armed UASs will be subject to disciplinary action. This applies especially to violations of duties of superiors (‟command responsibility”).

15.  If there is an initial suspicion of a criminal offense, the matter must be handed over by the disciplinary superior to the public prosecutor, in accordance with the applicable provisions. This applies in particular to crimes against the right to life and to lack of bodily injury, as well as crimes covered by the Völkerstrafgesetzbuch (‟Code of Crimes Against International Law”).