In this paper, CNAS Associate Fellow Kelley Sayler analyzes the proliferation of unmanned systems—particularly UAVs—within the framework of the increasingly contentious issue of area-denial/anti-access weapon systems in the Asia-Pacific generally, and in China’s near-abroad specifically. Contending that current UAV platforms are inadequate against well-equipped militaries (as opposed to nonstate actors), Sayler overviews development programs and emerging technologies that would benefit the United States both as standalone elements, and as a means to enhance legacy systems for the changing threat environment. Sayler concludes that current restrictions on exports of armed and/or stealthy UAVs degrade the capacity of even trusted allies to share the burden of wartime ISR capability in the Asia-Pacific and thus simplifies potential enemies’ targeting calculus.
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