The Use of Long-Range Armed Drones: Fact v. Myth

On February 17, the Obama administration announced a new policy setting standards for exporting and using armed drones, which will allow for the wider export of armed drones to allied nations.

In a March 3rd Congressional Briefing, a panel of RAND experts seeks to dispel some of the myths that have arisen with respect to the use of long-range armed drones:

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In Brief

Full Briefing

26:07

The Use of Long-Range Armed Drones: Fact v. Myth

Mar 3, 2015

Lynn E. Davis, Michael J. McNerney, Daniel Byman

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  • A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator on its final approach to Indian Springs Auxiliary Field in Nevada

    Armed and Dangerous? UAVs and U.S. Security

    While armed drones are not truly transformative weapons, they do offer the United States some significant advantages, particularly against enemies that lack air defenses. How the United States uses these weapons today and into the future will be important in shaping a broader set of international norms that discourage their misuse by others.

  • An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flightline at Creech Air Force Base, NV

    Armed Drone Myth 1: They Will Transform How War Is Waged Globally

    Long-range military drones are fundamentally misunderstood. Their champions wrongly contend they are revolutionizing warfare, while critics fear their spread would greatly increase the threat that China, terrorists, and others pose.

  • An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft takes off from Joint Base Balad, Iraq

    Armed Drone Myth 2: It's Counterproductive to Develop International Norms

    The challenge in establishing international norms for armed drones will be to define rules that preserve the rights of countries to use them in legitimate ways against legitimate threats (senior al Qaeda or Islamic State terrorists) while constraining illegitimate uses (political dissidents).

  • An MQ-9 Reaper sits on a ramp in Afghanistan

    Armed Drone Myth 3: Global Proliferation Demands Blanket Restrictions on Sales

    More than 70 countries have acquired drones of different classes and for different purposes. However, the number of countries actually developing “armed” drones is far smaller. And smaller still is the number of those countries developing long-range armed systems.