Liz Heidhues and I lived in Germany in the early 1970’s. We worked as civilian employees doing menial work for the American military at Ramstein Air Force Base.
Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 3.15.2019
Command, click, kill? Weaponized drones are highly controversial in Germany. Two cases involving fatal drone attacks carried out by the United States are being brought before Germany’s Higher Administrative Court in Münster.
Three Yemenis have taken legal action against the German government, as has one Somali. The plaintiffs claim to have relatives who lost their lives as a direct result of the deployment of US drones in their home countries.
The attacks are said to have been carried out via the Ramstein US military base in the state of Rhineland-Palentine, which is why the injured parties are suing the German government for being partially responsible.
From the US, the distance to directly control drone missions in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Yemen is too far. This is why the US depends on the Ramstein base to forward data from the US on to its intended destination. In addition, US military personnel plan and supervise air operations in Ramstein and also follow up with evaluations.
In 2016, Germany’s deputy minister for Europe, Michael Roth, reported in the German parliament that the US had informed the Foreign Ministry that the American Ramstein Air Base would be used as a telecommunications relay station for data traffic with unmanned aircraft. This means that radio signals are automatically received and forwarded on.
According to Marcel Dickow, a security policy expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, radio signals “presumably come from the US via glass fiber,” and are then passed on (from Ramstein) to the drones via satellite, but he added that “other operational functions are unknown.”
Details about the suspected coordination of drone missions from the base took time to surface.
The military site is shrouded in secrecy. Little information is made public about what goes on at the facility, which is extremely controversial in Germany. More than 54,000 American citizens live in the community around Ramstein Air Base, including military personnel, their relatives and retirees, making it the largest American military presence outside the US.
Ramstein is mainly used as a hub for US military transportation. But apart from those carrying out activities at and through the air base, there is little public information available about what else takes place there.
Liz and Lee Heidhues lived together in bucolic Meisau in 1970-1971 and worked at the Ramstein Air Base as civilians. Showing some ’60s spirit we flashed a Vietnam era Peace salute during a 2017 anniversary visit 46 years later to the nearby Miesau Ammo Depot.