According to a Wednesday report by Russia Today, the UAS facility was officially opened at Vilseck Army Airfield by US 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC). The drones are due to start their operation next Monday.
The report said that Hunter MQ-5B systems would fly the distance between Hohenfels and Grafenwoehr, in the south east of Germany. Hohenfels is almost 100 kilometer further south from the town of Grafenwoehr.
Under an agreement between Washington and Berlin, they are allowed to use two ‘air bridges’ in the east of Germany to train operators. It marks the first time that a US unmanned aerial vehicle will fly beyond the limits of military training areas.
The US army says the unmanned aerial vehicles will only be employed for training drone operators rather than spying purposes, and will not carry arms.
“The air bridge will only be used for transit between the two training areas,” said Col. John Norris, commander of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels. “No UAS will carry weapons through the air bridge.”
Drone operator Sgt. Carson Wilson said, “We’re here to let people know the camera is only to avoid obstacles, not to watch what people are doing.”
Brig. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, JMTC Commander also said, “Although we only use UASs at JMTC to train Soldiers — they are not armed, nor do they record data when in flight. We understand that our German neighbors have concerns and we want to make sure we address those concerns.”
However, local communities have expressed concern about the project, as German people fear that their freedom might be violated after the drones come into operation.
“It’s a big issue here in general, and it’s a very German topic,” German reporter Constanze Schulze said.
“There are many discussions going on about unmanned units, and of course there is some concern. I think that is why you see so many reporters here [in Vilseck]. Everyone is talking about it.”
Public skepticism has risen after the recent scandal about US National Security Agency (NSA) spying activities in Germany, which led to several protests in the country.
German politicians are also concerned about the issue. Reinhold Strobl of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) said Germans were informed “too late” and authorities in the country as well as US military provided “inadequate” information ahead of the deployment.
Strobl added that Germans would have remained completely unaware of the issue if it had not been for test flights carried out in July.
Germans are furious at the reported data sharing between German secret services and their American counterparts.
In August, a report by German weekly magazine Der Spiegel showed that the country’s foreign intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) had sent massive amounts of intercepted communications data to the NSA in December last year.