Over the past several years, the headlines have been filled with news drone strike after drone strike in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The extrajudicial targeted assassination of alleged terrorist leaders has become almost a daily occurrence. The Obama Administration has also expanded the so-called War on Terror through the use of drones to conduct shadow wars in places such as Yemen and Somalia. The President and others in his administration has defended the use of drones, but will they have the same attitude if other countries use them in the same way? We may soon find out as a global arms race for drone technology has begun:
The number of countries that have acquired or developed drones expanded to more than 75, up from about 40 in 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Iran and China are among the countries that have fielded their own systems.
“People have seen the successes we’ve had,” said Lt. Gen. Larry James, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Israeli aircraft recently shot down an Iranian-made drone launched by Hezbollah that had penetrated Israeli airspace. Hezbollah is a U.S.-designated terror group supported by Iran that has fought wars with Israel and carried out attacks on U.S. personnel.
Pakistan is attempting to acquire an armed drone system, apparently with help from China, according to IHS Janes, a security research firm.
The U.S. State Department and Defense Department control exports of U.S. drone technology and equipment, and the United States has rejected requests from a growing number of countries seeking drone technology. Israel has sold drone equipment to India, Russia and Georgia, according to the GAO.
Some analysts contend that nations seek the drones as much for the clout they bring as any military utility they provide, since few countries have the sophisticated sensors or precision weapons that the United States employs.
Photo: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Rob Donnelly from the 380th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conducts pre-flight checks on an EQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle before its first launch from an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia (Photo via U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris).