U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks showed several countries including United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia had previously approached U.S. officials to try to buy armed drones, but were rebuffed.
Further sales to European states were also possible, he said, despite mounting budget pressures and several European drone projects. The company says it believes high-profile use of both Predator and more sophisticated U.S. drones in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have dispelled many doubts about the once controversial concept of unmanned aircraft.
“The nations that have been operating in coalition with us ... have seen what it can do in practice,” said Ames, a former U.S. Navy rear admiral. “Their conviction goes well beyond what marketing hype can provide.”
A growing number of new functions were also being identified, he said, almost all with massive o f financial savings over conventional manned platforms.
At a cost of some $3 million to $4 million a drone, the export Predator is much cheaper than almost any manned aircraft capable of the same function, he said, costs less in fuel, and is often able to remain airborne for much longer.
The roughly $6 million maritime patrol Predator, he said, could perform many of the same tasks as a large maritime patrol aircraft with a crew of up to 10 and a pricetag of up to $200 million.
Export regulations, however, were continuing to limit sales, he said.
“I do think the regime could do with re-examination,” he said. (Editing by Mark Potter)