A Preemptive Strike on Drones?

As the 21st Century moves forward into the future, the future of warfare is consistently increasing on the use of Drones. The United States in the War on Terror have justified the use of drone strikes as legal and have argued many times on that position. Although, most drone use are for surveillance, Predator drone strikes on potential targets have been frequent in countries like Yemen and the tribal areas in Northern Pakistan. While the United States has had success in picking off targets, there as also been reports that the strikes have claimed collateral in the form of civilian lives. In February 2012, President Obama signed H.R. 658, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The bill provides $63.4 billion to fund the agency through 2015, including approximately $11 billion towards the FAA’s proposed Next Generation (“NextGen”) air traffic control system. That means drones flying over the skies of the U.S. in addition to other necessary funds the FAA needs. The Agency projects there could be 30,000 drones over the U.S. by 2020.

The main purpose of this blog however, is the domino effect of the use of drones whether they be for surveillance or missile strikes. China, which has been rapidly trying to increase their military prowess, has conducted their first test flight for its first stealth combat drone. A Chinese military analyst said it can be used for reconnaissance and air-to-ground strikes. It was compared to the U.S. drones, the Northrop Grumman X-47 series and the European nEUROn stealth drones. The Chinese state media has said the successful flight has made them the 5th country (behind the U.S., France, Russia and U.K.) to have developed a UCAV (unmanned combat aerial vehicle ).

In September, China flew an unmanned UAV drone (surveillance drone) over the Senkaku Islands. This move angered the nation of Japan since both nations are at odds over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Japan said it would shoot down any foreign drones over its airspace and China has said in the past that anything of the sort would constitute an act of war.

With a seemingly domino effect in place that has increased nations using/manufacturing drones in foreign matters, can anything be done to break the “use of drones” legal limbo? As seen with China and Japan, an incident over drone use could escalate conflicts or nations at odds into something worse. What can the international community do to set standards or to limit the use of drone strikes, since they present international legal issues?


The Diplomat

Democracy Now

The Guardian

National Business Aviation Association

Washington Times

Image: Foreign Policy

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