More U.S. armed drones for Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea and allies

President Donald Trump will allow Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea to buy U.S. armed drones. More US allies should also get an easier access to these lethal weapons thanks to a softening of the purchase regulations.

More U.S armed drones for Saudi Arabia Japan South Korea and allies
State-of-the-art armed drones such as the General Dynamics MQ-1 Predator (photo) or its successor, the MQ-9 Reaper are not concerned with the softening of the export regulations decided by president Trump's administration (Picture source:  Army Recognition)

Defense concerns are not monopolizing the reasons for this change in the US policy. American drone manufacturers are facing a competition overseas, especially from China and Israel. As it appears with the “declaration of commercial war” with China signed by Donald Trump on 22 March, it appears that the will to better balance the international trade between the USA and the world is extending to military materiel.

In the case of armed UAVs, there has been months-long internal deliberations on how far to go in unleashing drone exports. Trump's previous national security adviser H.R. McMaster was pressed to press to expedite the policy shift to avoid losing out on sales to certain countries.

This change of policy will consist in lowering some barriers to sales of smaller hunter-killer drones that carry fewer missiles and travel shorter distances than larger models such as the General Dynamics MQ-1 Predator or its successor, the MQ-9 Reaper ($17 million apiece). Two potential beneficiaries of the regulation changes, Textron and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc, currently market smaller armed drones internationally (though U.S. regulations have apparently restrained them from securing sales so far). Other manufacturers are considering expanding their product lines, such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Lockheed Martin.

Export regulations will also be eased for surveillance drones of all sizes. This is the end of a long-standing U.S. taboo against selling armed drones to countries other than a handful of Washington's most trusted allies. Beside UK and Italy being already customers (plus Belgium soon), some NATO allies will be “targeted” first, of course, along with Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan. According to MailOnLine, other concerned countries might be India, Singapore and Australia as well as many of the 35 signatories to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an international agreement that sets rules for export of missiles and related weaponry.