The U.S. is pushing allies and partners to use more drones in their militaries and operations, the Pentagon’s top Asia-Pacific official said.
“Whether it’s with partners in South China Sea, with India, with other high-end partners, we have been talking with them about opportunities we see for them to integrate some of these low-cost unmanned systems into their militaries, particularly for maritime domain awareness and to help them police their electoral areas,” Ely Ratner, assistant defense secretary for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, told the Defense Writers Group on Tuesday. “It’s a huge benefit for these allies, partners to have greater awareness around what’s happening in their area. And these kinds of unmanned systems are critical to that, including sub-surface.”
The push for maritime domain awareness reflects the increasing U.S. focus on sea control. Among the Pentagon agencies pushing U.S. partners to use drones, particularly in the Pacific, is the Defense Innovation Unit, whose new director Doug Beck has been very “ambitious” in his agency’s “international agenda and also in terms of building international partnerships,” Ratner said.
The Biden administration has been having more tech-focused conversations with allies and international partners. This year, the White House has upgraded its relationship with India through the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology, or iCET, and the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem, or INDUS-X. There’s also a similar effort with Singapore, Ratner said.
“And within each of these, there has been a major defense component,” Ratner said. Moreover, “Deputy National Security Adviser [Jon] Finer is in India…following up on some of these issues, and it’s going to remain at the top of our agenda. And just having been in Southeast Asia with the Secretary and his meetings with Southeast Asian partners, talking a lot about these opportunities.”