Coming Soon: A Worldwide Drone Shopping Spree

| Sun Jul. 1, 2012 10:09 AM PDT

This is obviously no surprise or anything, but just so you know:

Despite concerns about U.S.-made drones ending up in enemy hands, American military contractors are lobbying the government to loosen export restrictions and open up foreign markets to the unmanned aircraft that have reshaped modern warfare.

...."Export restrictions are hurting this industry in America without making us any safer," Wesley G. Bush, Northrop's chief executive, said at a defense conference this year....As the U.S. war effort draws down and the Pentagon budget shrinks, defense companies say they need Congress to ease restrictions so they can tap lucrative foreign markets for their wares.

More important, they say, the current export restrictions may cause the U.S. to lose potential customers to nations eager to elbow their way into the market. Already, Israel is making drones and selling them to several countries, including Azerbaijan, India and Ecuador. China has more than a dozen drones in development.

It's all about the economy, of course. Howard Berman's liberal 28th congressional district might not be the aerospace hub it used to be, but there's still plenty of defense business in the Los Angeles area that benefits his constituents. So naturally he's in favor of increasing the sale of drones overseas. "A very significant part of this economic recovery depends on exports," he told the LA Times. "We need to take advantage of where our strengths lie."

Neither China nor Israel is a party to the Missile Technology Control Regime, which prevents sales of all but the smallest unmanned craft, and they're selling drones all over the world. Pretty soon, we will be too. We may be pretty happy about our drone superiority at the moment, but it won't last long. Welcome to the 21st century.

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