WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has ordered government agencies to expedite and expand arms sales abroad, including exports of advanced drones to reinforce allied armies, the White House has said, a move expected to be helpful to countries like India.
He has also established a new administration policy on the export of American-manufactured unmanned aerial systems (UAS), White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
The move is expected to be helpful to countries like India, a major defence partner which is seeking to purchase large number of armed and surveillance drones from the US.
The Indian armed forces over the next decade want over 400 drones, including combat and submarine-launched remotely piloted aircraft, as well as directed energy weapons (DEWs) like high-energy lasers and high-powered microwaves capable of destroying enemy targets and even satellites.
Several such military capabilities have been identified in the defence ministry's new "Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap-2018" to provide the industry with an overview of the country's offensive and defensive military requirements up to the late 2020s.
President Trump signed a national security presidential memorandum approving a new conventional arms transfer (CAT) policy, Sanders said on Thursday.
The new CAT policy reflects the priorities set out in the President's National Security Strategy and provides a framework under which all US Government agencies will review and evaluate proposed arms transfers and approve commercial defence sales by American companies, she said.
"These updated policies reflect the President's commitment to peace through strength by building up our allies and partners, expanding opportunities for American industry, creating American jobs, and advancing the national security interests of the United States," Sanders said.
Asserting that American industry produces the most sophisticated and effective defence systems in the world, Sanders said "the announcements are key first steps in a series of government-wide initiatives to strengthen our allies, support the manufacturing and defence industrial base, and drive American job creation and innovation".
Peter Navarro, assistant to the President for trade and manufacturing policy, told reporters that providing allies and partners with greater access to American arms will reduce their reliance not just on Chinese knock-offs, but also on Russian systems, consistent with the countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
"For too long we have hamstrung ourselves and limited our ability to provide our allies and partners with the defencive capabilities they require, even when in the US interest. President Trump's new CAT policy, which reforms the myopic 2014 policy of his predecessor, will ensure that American interests are put first in our own decision making," he said.
The administration's UAS export policy will level the playing field by enabling US firms to increase their direct sales to authorised allies and partners.
By expanding international sales opportunities, US industry will be further incentivised to do what they do best: invest and innovate.
This will keep US defence industrial base in the vanguard of emerging defence technologies while creating thousands of additional jobs with good wages and generating substantial export revenues, he said.
"The US aerospace and defence industries contribute almost a trillion dollars annually to our economy and support about 2.5 million jobs while maintaining a significant global trade surplus.
"As President Trump works to balance our trade with the rest of the world, further strengthening a critical part of our export economy and defence industrial base is a logical and critical step," Navarro said.
He said although the US leads the way in UAS technology, overly restrictive policies enacted by the previous administration have accelerated an undesirable outcome.
Strategic competitors like China are aggressively marketing. The international markets is forecast to be worth more than $50 billion a year within the next decade.
"Already, we are seeing Chinese replicas of American UAS technology deployed on the runways in the Middle East. In June at the Paris Air Show, China's Chengdu Aircraft Group featured its Wing Loong II medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS, a clear knockoff of General Atomics Reaper," he said.
According to Tina Kaidanow, principal deputy assistant secretary, bureau of political-military affairs, the US is enabling not just some additional sales of MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) Category 1; it is actually looking at allowing these companies to directly make sales to the countries rather than via the US government.
"That's a major change. And we will give them additional space for marketing of these systems and for the eventual sale, assuming that they meet all other criteria, the sale meets all the other criteria that we would normally consider," Kaidanow added.