Rupert Hammond-Chambers, who consults for U.S. arms makers through BowerGroupAsia, an advisory with 10 offices in the region, predicted Southeast Asian defense budgets would expand steadily as a hedge against Chinese assertiveness in disputes in the South China and East China seas.
December’s election of conservative, pro-American leaders in Japan and South Korea could further fuel sales, demonstrating U.S. solidarity with allies and partners.
The Obama administration says arms sales are an increasingly critical and cost-efficient arrow in its quiver to defend U.S. worldwide interests.
Such transfers reinforce diplomatic ties and promote long-term partnerships. They also are prized by Washington because they make it easier to fight side by side in places like Afghanistan and help allies do more for their own defense.
“This potentially reduces the burden that falls on our shoulders,” Andrew Shapiro, the State Department’s top official for partner strengthening, said in a December 5 speech.
The Pentagon is aiming to boost intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the Asia-Pacific along with the introduction of more unmanned systems.
Such dispersed capabilities would help avert accidents and misunderstandings while fostering cooperation, Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear, the Hawaii-based commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, told a forum in Washington.
Contractors such as Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop and Raytheon Co expect regional demand for their products and services to help them offset Pentagon belt-tightening forced by U.S. deficit-trimming measures.