Ease on US UAS export regulations

Trump admin officially makes it easier to export military drones – link

Source: Defense News

Article Headlines

  • The U.S. State Department has officially loosened restrictions on exporting military-grade unmanned aerial vehicles to foreign nations, a move long sought by the defense industry
  • Under a new policy announced Friday, unmanned aerial systems that fly at speeds below 800 kph will no longer be subject to the “presumption of denial” that, in effect, blocked most international sales of drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and the RQ-4 Global Hawk
  • The U.S. government’s interpretation of the export controls had led to a blanket denial of most countries’ requests to buy “category-1” systems capable of carrying 500-kilogram payloads for more than 300 kilometers. Instead of having a “presumption of denial” for those drones, where export officials needed special circumstances to allow the sale of the drones, the new guidance would mean those officials would now consider proposed sales using the same criteria as they do for other military exports
  • The regulations were primarily introduced to regulate the sale of cruise missiles abroad, but the interpretation also covers certain unmanned vehicles. The United States has been exploring a change in how to interpret the MTCR for some time, with discussions centered around the “presumption of denial” clause for category-1 UAVs
  • The decision primarily opens up sales opportunities for General Atomics and Northrop Grumman
  • While broadly seen by the defense industry as a positive step forward, one industry source expressed concerns that the changes announced Friday could ultimately be toothless. In April 2018, the Trump administration announced a number of policy reforms aimed at speeding up the sales process, such as allowing certain UAS to be exported via the Direct Commercial Sales process as opposed to the more laborious Foreign Military Sales process. But those changes did not have the intended consequences, the industry official said

Overview & Comments

  • While there are quite a few reasons for the change of policy, one of the main drivers is to ‘combat’ China’s rise in MALE UAS export currently filling the void where US manufacturers cannot export to. For example strategic markets such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan – all of which have acquired Chinese MALE systems (with reports on Jordan recently selling their CH-4Bs to Libya)
  • Another potential customer is India which has expressed its interest over the past couple of years with various milestones in the matter such as the Communications, Compatibility, Security Agreement (COMCASA) signed in 2018
  • It is Interesting to note the difference between various western countries with regards to armed UAS
  • See “German Military Considers Using Armed Drones” 
  • See “Safran Arms Patroller UAV” 
  • See “UK’s Protector gains Brimstones, Paveway IV for ground test” 

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