US eases military UAS export rules

Harry Lye 27 July 2020 (Last Updated July 27th, 2020 15:15)

The US has eased rules governing the export of military unmanned aerial systems (UAS) making it easier for it to sell UAS internationally.

US eases military UAS export rules
An MQ-9 Reaper flying over southern Afghanistan. Credit: Lt Col Leslie Pratt.

The US has eased rules governing the export of military unmanned aerial systems (UAS) making it easier for it to sell UAS internationally.

Under the new rules, announced by US State Department Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs René Clarke Cooper, UAS that fly under 800kph (497mph) will no longer be subject to “presumption of denial” that made approving their sale more difficult.

The change affects the US’s implementation of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Under the new rules, possible UAS sales will be vetted using rules already in place for other exports.

Commenting on the change during a telebriefing, Cooper said: “All proposed transfers affected by this change will continue to be subject to the same rigorous review criteria that we have outlined in our UAS Export Policy, our Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, and of course, the Arms Export Control Act, as well as the specific non-proliferation criteria that has been identified in the MTCR Guidelines.

“The United States is going to continue conducting our robust review procedures for exporting UAS technology to support global non-proliferation objectives, and we encourage members of the MTCR, as well as non-members such as China, to do the same.”

The new rule change applies to UAS but will not affect systems such as cruise missiles, hypersonic aerial vehicles and ‘advanced unmanned aerial combat vehicles’. Cooper added that the subset of UAS covered by the new regulations ‘poses no risk for weapons of mass destruction delivery’.

Commenting on the move in a statement the White House said: “While the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is critical in slowing proliferation and promoting peace and security, it is in dire need of modernization as it applies to UAS. In a sector of rapidly-evolving technology, the MTCR’s standards are more than three decades old.

“Not only do these outdated standards give an unfair advantage to countries outside of the MTCR and hurt United States industry, they also hinder our deterrence capability abroad by handicapping our partners and allies with subpar technology. More than two years of discussion with MTCR partners were unable to produce consensus on this overdue reform.”

The White House added that the move would bolster US National Security “by improving the capabilities of our partners and increase our economic security by opening the expanding UAS market to United States industry,” adding that it saw the decision as an example for other MTCR members to follow.