By W.J. HENNIGAN Los Angeles Times
Despite concerns about U.S.-made drones ending up in enemy hands, American military contractors are lobbying the government to loosen export restrictions and open up foreign markets to the unmanned aircraft that have reshaped modern warfare.
Companies such as Northrop Grumman Corp.and other arms makers are eager to tap a growing foreign appetite for high-tech — and relatively cheap — drones, already being sold on the world market by countries such as Israel and China.
“Export restrictions are hurting this industry in America without making us any safer,” Wesley G. Bush, Northrop’s chief executive, said at a defense conference this year. “The U.S. is struggling to sell unmanned aircraft to our allies while other nations prepare to jump into the marketplace with both feet.”
The defense industry may want to sell more drones overseas, but arms control advocates are alarmed. The potential for these weapons to fall into enemy hands is great, they say, and easing restrictions could result in remote-controlled killing machines being used in some of the most volatile regions of the world.