Europeans Form "Drone Club," Looking To Compete With US, Israel
Two days before a suspected U.S. drone strike killed a senior member of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network in Pakistan, the Associated Press reported that France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain had formed what French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called a "club" to develop drones to rival American and Israeli UAVs.
From the AP:
Some Europeans fear they are falling behind in an area that may determine military aviation's future. Many aerospace experts believe the days of piloted fighter aircraft are numbered. In June, three major European defense contractors — pan-European EADS, Italy's Finmeccanica and France's Dassault — called for a concerted effort by Europe to catch up.
It is not surprising that officials in Europe want to compete with American and Israeli drones. UAVs are widely expected to be an increasingly common feature of future warfare, and Europeans will want to keep their militaries competitive with not only the American and Israeli militaries, but also the militaries of countries that have also been developing drones such as Iran and China.
Israel is the world's largest exporter of drones. One of the most popular, the Heron, a drone developed by a division of Israel Aerospace Industries, is used by militaries around the world, and has logged over 15,000 hours in Afghanistan.
As well as selling drones abroad, Israel has used UAVs to carry out targeted killings and conduct surveillance.
Likewise, the U.S. has used drones to carry out strikes against Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects abroad, which may constitute war crimes.
A few days ago, Iranian officials unveiled what Tehran says is Iran's biggest drone so far, the "Fotros," which reportedly has a range of 1,200 miles, meaning that it could reach Israel.
Last year, the Chinese unveiled the Wing Loong drone, which is capable of carrying missiles and looks a lot like the U.S. Predator drone. A recent report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission notes that the similarity has led some analysts "to speculate Chinese espionage may have contributed to the Wing Loong's development," citing this article in a footnote.
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