China Has Made Drone Warfare Global

November 20, 2020
By Michael C. Horowitz, Joshua A. Schwartz, and Matthew Fuhrmann | Foreign Affairs

Drone warfare is one of the most important international security developments of the twenty-first century. The United States has conducted thousands of drone strikes, ranging from attacks on nonstate actors such as al Qaeda to the operation last January that killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani. Turkey has employed armed drones domestically against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, Nigeria against Boko Haram, and Iraq against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have carried out deadly attacks in Libya and Yemen using drones. In just the last few weeks, Azerbaijan has used armed drones, arguably to great effect, in the war with Armenia, especially against tanks and artillery.

Armed drones are proliferating rapidly, and drone warfare is thus likely to become even more prevalent in coming years. Our research shows that 18 countries obtained armed drones from 2011 to 2019. By contrast, prior to 2011 just three countries had armed drones: the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel.

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