US declares it will breach arms control agreement to sell more drones

US MTCR move signals Trump’s intent on arms control

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

Drone Proliferation Update, July 2020

Serbia acquires Chinese CH-92 drones
  • 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

New research shows rise in number of states deploying armed drones

Click to open report

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

Drones, proliferation and the MTCR: US presents discussion paper  

Over the past last couple of months there has been several reports in the defence and international press that the United States is looking to ‘renegotiate’ the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in order to allow it to increase the export of its unmanned drones. Alongside the US-led initiative to put in place a new international political agreement on the proliferation and use of armed UAVs – which many experts see as possibly weakening current international controls – this new move is worrying for those concerned about international peace and security. Read more

Armed drones control process must be opened to civil society groups and drone victims

Expanding drone strikes

Details of a US-initiated proposed control agreement on the export and use of armed drones have been announced. The Joint Declaration on the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), signed by 48 nations including the UK, sets out very briefly – on less than one side of paper – five broad principles to be adhered to in relation to the export and use of armed drones. According to an accompanying Fact Sheet issued by the US State Department, The “will serve as a basis for discussions on a more detailed set of international standards… which the United States and its partners will convene in spring 2017.” Read more

A new international control regime on armed drones led by the US?  What is going on?

Reaper-17The United States has begun moves to develop what amounts to a new international control regime on the proliferation and use of armed drones.  US officials presented details of a ‘Proposed Joint Declaration of Principles for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)’ to international export control officials during the arms trade treaty review conference in Geneva this week. Read more