International

German Luftwaffe Pilots Train To Fly Drones — In Israel

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY CHARLIE WEGMAN A

An Israeli army technician walks past the Air Force drone "Heron" at the Palmahim Airbase in central Israel on May 3, 2010.   AFP/AFP hide caption

itoggle caption AFP/AFP

That German Luftwaffe pilots should be training to remotely fly drones isn't surprising.

That they're doing their training in Israel, now that's a bit of an eyebrow raiser.

Germany is obviously a much different place since the 1930s and 1940s. The nation that so readily plunged the world into a catastrophic world war just over 70 years ago and had as its official policy genocide against Jews, now only reluctantly commits its combat forces and has made Holocaust-denial a punishable offense.

Still, it's symbolic of how old hatreds don't have to stay that way that Luftwaffe pilots are now training in Israel to operate drones purchased from an Israeli company, aircraft already painted with iron crosses. The drones are to be deployed by Germany to protect its troops in Afghanistan.

Reuters reports:

Israel is a pioneer of combat drones, having deployed them in Lebanon in the Palestinian territories. Heron's manufacturer, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), says it is also used by Canadian, French and Australian forces in Afghanistan.

Yet the fact Israeli know-how may now be saving German military lives offers up a unique historical irony lost on none.

The Defence Ministry in Berlin declined to allow the Luftwaffe trainees to be interviewed about such symbolism, but one of them described how they took time off to visit the central Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Dressed in civilian clothes while in Israel, trainees on an earlier course stood at attention for annual commemorations in April of the six million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.