So far only three countries are known to have used armed combat drones to carry out attacks: Israel, the US, and the UK. But this could soon change.
Analysts see demand for military UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones) quadrupling over the next decade. Global spending on drone technology is expected to jump from an estimated $6.6 billion this year to $11.4 billion in 2022. Israeli weapons manufacturers have long been actively marketing military drones to other countries, and in the fall of 2012, the US announced that as many as 66 countries would be eligible to buy US drones under new Defense Department guidelines. However, the US Congress and State Department have final approval of drone exports on a case-by- case basis and have denied the request of NATO-partner Turkey to purchase Predator drones because of ongoing tensions between Turkey and Israel. Soon, however, countries that cannot obtain US or Israeli drones may be able to purchase them from weapons manufacturers in other countries such as China and South Africa.
European weapons manufacturers also seek a share of the drone market, not only for European military use, but also for export to other countries. Though it will likely be many years before a European-made combat drone will be operable, defense departments of several European countries are seeking to acquire for their arsenals US or Israeli combat drones capable of carrying weapons for targeted killing.
Italy requested US permission to weaponize the Italian fleet of six US Reaper two years ago. In May 2012, the Obama administration announced that it would soon notify the US Congress of plans to sell Italy “weaponization” kits, a move that, according to the Wall Street Journal, “could open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other allies.” But so far there have been no reports that approval to Italy has yet been granted.
In May 2013, France announced the purchase two unarmed US Reaper drones for the intervention in Mali, and the drones could later be armed. Holland is already using drones extensively for domestic police surveillance and is reportedly considering purchase of US Reaper drones for military purposes. And the German Bundeswehr, which some years ago leased three Israeli Heron drones for surveillance in Afghanistan, is now negotiating with the US and Israel to acquire armed combat drones.
Read the rest at Truthout.