As the hostilities between and Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region reach their worst levels since the end of the 1992-94 war, daily reports of drones and loitering munitions being used in strikes or shot down pile up on social media, and the truth and extent are hard to clarify. This post takes a long view and looks at the protagonist’s acquisitions and use of drones and loitering munitions in the last few years and what their introduction means for peace and security in the region. Read more
The Trump administration announced on Friday (24 July) that it will breach the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) by unilaterally re-interpreting it in order to export armed drones. The US has tried without success over the past four years to persuade other signatories of the agreement including the UK, Canada, France and Germany to make changes to allow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS) to be exempt from the 1987 agreement. However, much to their annoyance, other countries have stood firm.
In essence, the MTCR, regulates missile, rockets and similar technology including drones that can travel at least 300km into two categories; Category I are those able to travel that distance and deliver a payload of 500-kilogram; Category II are those able to travel the distance but not carry a 500 kg payload. Signatories agree a ‘strong presumption of denial’ of exporting Category I systems. Read more
- This latest update details new operators and other significant developments around the proliferation of armed drones. For our complete list of states operating, or close to operating, armed drones see Who Has Armed Drones?
Over the last six months, Libya has continued to be the focus for the use of armed drones. France has increased its activity in the Sahel, and several Asian nations, plus Russia, edge closer to operating armed drones. Turkey and Iran also continue to promote their indigenous developments, and the US appears to have decided to unilaterally reinterpret the MTCR guidelines to allow it to increase its export of armed drones.
Meanwhile, UN Special Rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, has urged action on drone proliferation during her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council, arguing of the need for the international community to “undertake effective measures to control their proliferation through export and multilateral arms control regimes and/or under international treaties” in order to tackle effectively the many challenges posed by armed drones, particularly for targeted killings. Read more
The third of our twice-yearly updates details new operators and other significant developments around the proliferation of armed drones. For our complete list of states operating, or close to operating, armed drones see Who Has Armed Drones?
France undertakes first drone strikes
As has long been expected, the French Reaper fleet started to undergo weaponization in October 2019, with Jane’s reporting that this process will continue to run until Nov 2021 under a contract worth $17.87m. A mere two days after completing a first test launch with its new missiles, the French air force carried out its first drone strike in Mali. The strike, on 23 December, was part of an operation that reportedly killed 40 ‘terrorists’. A further drone strike in Mali on 19 January was reported by the French Ministry of Defence, killing five alleged armed militants. This represents a clear escalation in the use of force. Read more
It’s been a year since we published Drone Wars: The Next Generation, which gave our assessment of who is operating armed drones. This update adds four new States to those with the ability to operate large MALE or medium sized armed drones, as well as an update on significant exports, use, new models and proliferation controls over the last year. Read more
A new report published by Drone Wars UK reveals that over the last five years the number of countries actively using armed drones has quadrupled. Drone Wars: The Next Generation demonstrates that from just three states (US, UK and Israel) in 2013, there are now a further nine who have deployed armed drones in a variety of roles including for armed conflict and counter-terror operations. The report also shows that a further nine states are very close to having armed drone capabilities, almost doubling the number of existing users. To this number, we have added five non-state actors who have used armed drones, which will take the number of active operators of armed drones to over 25 in the next few years.
A number of studies by think tanks and NGOS over the last few years have shown that military drone technology has spread to over 90 countries, however, the ability to use armed drones has until recently remained in the hands of only a relatively few states. Some media reports, perhaps egged on by special Read more