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MENA Armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

MENA Armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), most commonly known as “drones”, are making headlines due to their increasing use in conflicts around the world and, especially, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Besides their specific military impact and their consequences for warfare, drones might also have important implications for political and security dynamics in a context of both state fragility and deepening interstate rivalry across the region. Such developments are likely to accelerate and evolve due to both the skyrocketing proliferation of unmanned platforms and the expanding number of their operators – whether state, para-state or non-state actors – with potential reverberations on international law as well. Despite the lack of robust empirical evidence, the present paper aims to contextualize the proliferation of armed drones in the MENA region by taking into account multiple factors – including available market, military, and casualties data – and assess their possible implications for the regional security landscape. Other aspects, such as the positive or negative connotations of drones are presented, but remain beyond the scope of this essay and will not be examined. The paper concludes with a useful inventory of military-grade UAVs currently used by MENA states updated according to open-source data.

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