Has the Bird Flown the Coop?


Many near-peer competitors are rapidly eroding overall U.S. unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) supremacy.  Most notably China and Russia, although not yet matching U.S. UAS capability, threaten U.S. security interests by encroaching on areas of traditional U.S. influence. The United States’ restrained posture towards UAS sales has cost U.S. dominance of the relative market and undermined opportunity for broader strategic partnerships.  The United States released in April 2018, an updated Conventional Arms Transfer Policy and U.S. Policy on the Export of Unmanned Aerial Systems, which provide the opportunity to cultivate greater trust with close partners and exploit the inevitable future of unmanned aerial technology.  The United States should now: 1) lead significant changes to the Missile Technology Control Regime’s (MTCR) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) definitions; 2) cultivate increased UAS collaboration and sales to develop cultural interoperability and solidify normative behaviors of use and export; and 3) anticipate and capitalize on the results of the policy shift.  Such efforts are necessary for the U.S. to preserve a majority share of the international UAS market opportunity and strongly influence the remainder, protect the United States’ defense technological advantage, and counter market subjugation by near-peer competitors.

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