Obama OKs Proliferation of US "Hunter-Killer" Drone Technology

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by
Common Dreams

Obama OKs Proliferation of US "Hunter-Killer" Drone Technology

Administration plans to arm Italy's fleet of Reaper drones

by
Common Dreams staff

A US Reaper drone shoots missile. (US Air Force photo)

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that the Obama administration plans to arm Italy's fleet of Reaper drone aircraft, a move that would open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other countries.

Obama's decision to provide the advanced hunter-killer drone technology for Italy's unarmed drones will make it hard for the US to deny the same technology to others, and set back efforts to urge sales limitations on other nations that are marketing sophisticated hunter-killer drones such as Israel.

"America's cutting-edge high technology should not be shared," US Senator Dianne Feinstein said. "I am concerned by the proliferation of these weapons systems and don’t think we should be selling them."

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The Wall Street Journal reports:

The Obama administration plans to arm Italy's fleet of Reaper drone aircraft, a move that could open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other allies, according to lawmakers and others familiar with the matter.

The sale would make Italy the first foreign country besides Britain to fly US drones armed with missiles and laser-guided bombs. US officials said Italy intends initially to deploy the armed drones in Afghanistan.

Weaponizing Italy's unarmed drones will make it hard for the US to deny similar capabilities to other NATO allies, and set back efforts to urge sales limitations on other nations that make armed drones such as Israel.Lawmakers who question the planned deal say the decision to "weaponize" Italy's unarmed surveillance drones could make it harder for the US to deny similar capabilities to other NATO allies, and set back efforts to urge sales limitations on other nations that make sophisticated drones such as Israel.

Advocates say such sales would enable trusted allies to conduct military missions on their own as well as help open markets for US drone manufacturers.

The administration sent a confidential "pre-notification" to congressional panels in April detailing its plan to sell kits to Italy to arm up to six Reaper drones, which are larger, more powerful versions of Predators.

The administration gave Congress a longer-than-usual 40 days to review the proposed sale. The period ended May 27 without a move to block the sale, according to congressional officials, clearing the way for the deal to move forward and for a formal notification of Congress as soon as this week.

Congress still could block the sale if it passes a joint resolution of disapproval in both the House and the Senate within 15 calendar days, though several members of Congress from both parties say such a move is unlikely. [...]

Critics of the proposed sale include the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat. “America’s cutting-edge high technology should not be shared. That’s just my view,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “I am concerned by the proliferation of these weapons systems and don’t think we should be selling them.”

A chief concern of critics is that the administration has yet to spell out what strings, if any, would be attached to a sales of this type to Italy and other future buyers.

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