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Game of Drones? Asian Militaries Shift Toward Cutting Edge Tech

Though the US dominates the world of unmanned aerial vehicles, both armed and spy-types, other countries are fast catching up. Especially in Asia, the Global Post reports:

In the Asia-Pacific region, the list of countries who have developed or purchased drones already includes Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines, according to a report published by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in July this year.

China in particular is racing to build a drone arsenal:

In June, a Chinese frigate was also photographed testing a helicopter UAV, said Wilson VornDick, a lieutenant commander in the US Navy Reserves and an analyst on China’s military for the Jamestown Foundation.

At the end of August, China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) announced plans to set up UAV patrols out of 11 airbases in coastal provinces for maritime surveillance. According to state media reports a pilot program last year ran UAVs out of Liaoning province to monitor an ocean area of around 380 square miles.

China’s drone drive means territorial disputes with the neighbors in the East and South China Sea will be changing:

China said Monday [September 24] that it plans to use unmanned drones to conduct marine surveillance by 2015 as it tries to increase its presence around uninhabited East China Sea islands at the centre of a dispute with Japan.

This is leaving the neighbors like Japan a little nervous, and they too are pursuing drones capable of competing with China:

Japan is planning to develop an unmanned drone that could help detect a North Korean nuclear missile attack and to counter China’s military buildup, a report said on Sunday.

For Japan, the ongoing revolution in military affairs has other advantages. Japan will never be able to match China in conventional, boots on the ground military power, but the rise of virtual warfare means that Japan can develop and deploy formidable military capabilities based on its technological prowess. China’s other great power rival in Asia, India, is also well positioned to capitalize on its IT capabilities to develop a 21st century fighting force.

The bottom line is that nationalist rivalries, internal tensions and unresolved border issues make modern Asia something of a tinderbox. Given the rapid technological and economic progress in the region, we must expect Asian military capabilities to rise. This in turn will force the United States to invest in the research and development of new weapons and new capabilities.

Interesting times.

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