Is Selling Drones to Other Countries a Good Idea?

A Shadow 200 drone ready to be launched. (Screenshot/YouTube)
A Shadow 200 drone ready to be launched. (Screenshot/YouTube)

It’s hard to believe that the U.S. would sell their drones to other countries, when it seems that when they go against an enemy, they’re using U.S. military equipment of some sought against them. But with the law now changed to allow the selling of armed drones abroad, U.S. allies may now be able to buy drone bomber’s to match their budgets.

Shadow 200 Image: Screenshot/YouTube

Shadow 200 drone. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The Shadow 200 and Shadow M2, which is slightly larger, have both shown that even simple drones can still be made into lethal weapons at a relatively low cost.

In a test, these drones were able to drop precision guided bombs on a bomb range last year.

Shadow 200 Image: Screenshot/YouTube

Shadow 200 drone preparing for launch. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The Shadows are made by Maryland-based Textron Systems and flown by the U.S. military under the designation RQ-7B. Unarmed, the Shadow 200 can fly about 77 miles and stay in flight for approximately 9 hours. It can also be sold with a satellite-linked version, which gives it the capability to be flown beyond line of sight and from a remote location.

Textron Sytems Unmanned Systems Shadow M2:

“Our Shadow is flown at the brigade level in the U.S. Army. They’re saying the brigades have enough capability to hit and kill whatever they need to without arming those systems,” William Irby, Textron senior vice president and general manager, told Defense One.

“Right now, the Army’s position is ‘we’re not going to do that.’ They’ve just begun to field these systems with the combat aviation brigades with the Apache helicopter, which have all the kill capability that they need. The Shadow serves as the eyes and ears of that system.”

He added: “Right now, the U.S. government—specifically our largest customer, the United States Army, is not planning to weaponize the tactical-level system. However, there’s beginning to be another level of discussion that may indicate a willingness to do that in the future.”

Textron Systems Unmanned Systems Shadow 200:

There would be a lot of countries that would love to have a drone air force at a low price, and with the Shadow, there is a real chance it will fit there budgets. But because of U.S. export controls, any U.S.-made drone that can be armed is almost impossible to sell outside of the country.

Shadow M2  Image: Screenshot/YouTube

Shadow M2 drone taking off from runway. (Screenshot/YouTube)

“The point I’m trying to make is that our Shadow can be modified by mounting hard points onto the wings to carry weapons. But the international configurations that we would be approved to export do not have that capability,” said Irby.

Military Drone Technology: 2014 (full documentary):

Among other barriers, any country that wanted to buy an armed Shadow 200 would have to sign an end-use agreement with the U.S. government not to modify it, and to allow real-time monitoring of missions. But rules change and controls can be loosened. In February, the State Department announced moves to allow the export of more armed drones to more countries, potentially including allies in the Middle East. The Department also said it would meet every case with a “strong presumption of denial,” wrote Defense One.

In a report from the RAND organization in 2014, there are 24 countries that are developing armed drones or have already. It seems the U.S. is trying to beat China in the sale of drones.

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