WASHINGTON Jan 21 Northrop Grumman Corp
Chief Executive Wes Bush on Wednesday lauded the U.S. government
for approving exports of some unmanned aerial vehicles, or
drones, and said more work was needed to keep up with
technological advances in other countries.
Bush said U.S. defense officials increasingly recognized the
need to update U.S. policy given the availability of drones
from other countries, and said State Department officials were
also awakening to changing realities in the global market.
But he told a conference hosted by the Brookings Institution
that more work was needed to address U.S. industry's concerns
that it is losing market share due to bans on the export of
The main sticking point is the Missile Technology Control
Regime, or MTCR, a partnership among 34 countries that was
established in 1987 to prevent the proliferation of missiles
capable of carrying a 500 kg (1,102 pound) payload at least 300
km (186 miles). The rules were amended in 1992 to include larger
unmanned aerial vehicles.
Northrop, which builds high-altitude Global Hawk drones, and
other firms have long urged changes that would allow them to
compete with Israel, the leading exporter, and other countries.
The U.S. government has been reluctant to tinker with the
export controls for fear it may allow sensitive technology to
fall into hostile hands, but industry and government officials
say a revamped policy on exports may be released soon.
Bush welcomed the U.S. government's support for sales of
Northrop's Triton unmanned system to Australia, and recent
interest in the Global Hawk system from Japan and South Korea.
"I do see a lot of progress," Bush said. "We still have some
work to do in front of us, but it's on the right vector."
Bush said most U.S. officials now realized it was better to
work with allies on developing unmanned technologies than
ring-fencing technologies that were available elsewhere.
Speaking with Reuters after the event, Bush urged the
government to develop a "firm set of principles against which we
can all operate," and said U.S. companies needed a broad
understanding of how a new policy would be implemented.
Bush said the U.S. government's interest in expanding ties
with India could pave the way for drone exports to that country,
but industry needed more than just isolated waivers.
He said President Barack Obama's nominee for defense
secretary, Ashton Carter, had been a leader on the issue of
drone exports during his previous tenure at the Pentagon.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal)