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US Seeks To Block Spread Of Unpiloted Aircraft Technologies

the era of unmanned warfare is poised for takeoff
by Charles Hoskinson
Washington (AFP) June 11, 2002
Unpiloted aircraft are one of the key weapons in the US campaign against terror and Washington wants to keep that technology a secret, a senior State Department official told Congress Tuesday.

In testimony before a subcommittee of the US Senate's Governmental Affairs Committee, Vann Van Diepen said the technology that allows military commanders to survey battles from afar and attack targets by remote control could be used by terrorists to deliver a devastating chemical or biological attack.

"Dealing with that threat has been a part of US nonproliferation efforts for over 15 years, and we have been strengthening our ability to impede and cope with it," the acting deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation said.

An increased reliance on unpiloted aircraft, or UAV in military jargon, and the "dual-use nature" of much of the technology requires the United States to "keep working hard to keep pace with the threat," he said.

Remote-controlled technology dates back to the 1940s, when the first cruise missile, the unguided German V-1 "buzz bomb," terrorized London during World War II.

The United States has honed the technology to develop its Predator and Global Hawk remote-controlled drones, both of which were deployed by US forces in Afghanistan in their offensive against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets.

Predators beamed real-time images of Afghanistan via satellite to US-based military commanders. Additionally, as was used in an attack on a compound where Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was believed hiding, the new technology has evolved to the point where the drones are able to carry and launch weapons of their own.

Such technology is likely coveted by other nations -- including those listed as state sponsors of terrorism by Washington, Van Diepen said.

Iraq has converted light reconnaissance aircraft to unpiloted status as a possible way of delivering chemical weapons, he said, while India has used unpiloted spy planes to keep tabs on nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.

Washington has since imposed export controls on such technology and has established an assistance program to help other countries develop export controls of their own, and has added the threat of sanctions against those who will not cooperate, Van Diepen said.

"In some cases the diplomacy surrounding sanctions or waivers can result in positive nonproliferation progress," he told lawmakers.

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