United States defense contractors including San Diego’s General Atomics are lobbying for reduced government restrictions that are stopping them from selling drone technology to other countries, the Los Angeles Times is reporting.
“Export restrictions are hurting this industry in America without making us any safer,” the Times quotes Northrop Grumman chief executive Wesley G. Bush as saying at a conference earlier this year.
Despite the assertion, advocates of arms control worry that American drone technology could fall into the wrong hands if restrictions on their sale, currently outlined under the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, are eased.
“We're talking about very sophisticated war machines here. We need to be very careful about who gets this technology. It could come back to hurt us,” says Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.
The U.S. already sells weaponry including bunker-busting bombs, fighter jets, and high-powered ship mounted artillery to a host of countries.
Proponents of reduced restrictions say current law is giving other countries an advantage by allowing them to capture market share in regions such as Asia and Latin America, where militaries are just beginning to establish drone fleets. They point to similar restrictions on satellite technology, which have caused the U.S. share of the export market to decline from 73 percent in 1995 to 25 percent by 2005.
General Atomics, meanwhile, has developed an unarmed version of its Predator drone, the Predator XP, which it intends to sell to the United Arab Emirates this year, regardless of any upcoming law changes. The company declined to comment on specifics of the deal.
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