Upgraded Italian Reapers would be able to fire weapons such as Lockheed Martin’s next generation AGM-114R, or Hellfire “Romeo,” designed to knock out “hard, soft and enclosed targets,” according to Lockheed, the Pentagon’s No. 1 supplier by sales and largest in the world.
Britain, the first foreign country to get U.S. technology to arm its Reapers, is considered a special case. Many U.S. officials and members of Congress view it as Washington’s staunchest and most reliable ally.
The State Department does not comment on proposed sales of U.S. military hardware until formal notifications have been completed. But a State Department official described Italy as a strong NATO ally which contributes significantly to coalition operations.
“The transfer of U.S. defense articles and service to allies like Italy enables us to work together more effectively to meet shared security challenges,” said the official, who declined to be named.
SPREAD DRONES, OR LIMIT THEM?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has publicly opposed the transfer of armed UAVs. “There are some military technologies that I believe should not be shared with other countries, regardless of how close our partnership,” Feinstein, a California Democrat, said last year.
She said she would put armed UAVs in the category of weapons the United States should try to rein in, not spread.
Turkey is among countries that have been seeking to buy U.S. UAVs. The MQ-9 Reaper is larger and more capable than the earlier MQ-1 Predator, both built by General Atomics.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Chicago last week that Obama was leaning toward selling UAVs to Turkey, which has fought separatist Kurdish rebels for decades in a conflict that has killed 40,000 people.