Who is Behind Middle East Drone Market?

Who is Behind Middle East Drone Market?

The Heron Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) takes off from the Comalapa airport runway during a counterdrug support mission May 21. The Heron UAV is part of an Unmanned Air System (UAS) deployed to El Salvador through May 27 to support a month-long evaluation initiative called Project Monitoreo to assess the suitability of using unmanned aircraft for counterdrug missions in the U.S. Southern Command area of focus. (Photo by Jose Ruiz, U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs)

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The use of armed drones in the Middle East, driven largely by sales from China, has grown significantly in the past few years with an increasing number of countries and other parties using them in regional conflicts to lethal effects, claims a report by UK think tank RUSI.

China has won sales in the Middle East and elsewhere by offering UAVs at lower prices and without the political conditions attached by the United States.

More and more Mideast countries have acquired armed drones, either by importing them, such as Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or by building them domestically like Israel, Iran and Turkey, according to the report.

Capitalizing on the gap in the market over the past few years, Beijing has supplied armed drones to several countries that are not authorized to purchase them from the U.S., and at a dramatically cheaper price, reports defensenews.com citing the report.

The report found that Iran, the UAE and Turkey all changed the way they employ air power after they acquired armed drones.

Armed drones enabled Turkey and the UAE to conduct strikes in situations where they would not have risked using conventional aircraft, it said.

Iran developed armed drones from the outset specifically to project power beyond the reach of its air force, which is hamstrung by obsolete aircraft and sanctions.

The report said it remains to be seen whether and how the loosening of restrictions on the export of armed drones by the Trump administration will alter dynamics in the region.