WASHINGTON — A member of the US House Armed Services Committee is challenging the Obama administration to sell Jordan remotely piloted Predator and Reaper aircraft that he says will allow deeper infiltration into Islamic State territory to conduct surveillance and strikes. If the US will not sell Jordan what it wants, he claims, Jordan may turn to China's Caihong 5 or an Israeli drone, the Heron TP.
"China recently unveiled its version of the Reaper drone, the Caihong 5, capable of carrying bombs and missiles and traveling up to 2,100 miles," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece Sunday. "Jordan has expressed interest in buying the Caihong 5 if the U.S. refuses to export the Reaper."
Hunter, who's congressional district covers San Diego, home to Predator and Gray Eagle manufacturer General Atomics, has been vocal on the issue before. In February, he wrote a letter urging President Obama to reverse a decision to deny General Atomics an export license to market the unmanned Predator XP to Jordan.
In late August, China publicized the first flight of the Caihong 5, or Rainbow 5, a virtual clone of the Reaper.
Hunter argues the administration has failed to live up to its commitment of full support for Jordan, made after Islamic State terrorists released a video in February of a captured and caged Jordanian pilot being burned alive. Though the Missile Technology Control Regime — a voluntary agreement among 34 countries intended to prevent the proliferation of technology capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction — limits export of unmanned systems, he says, the administration should recognize the urgent circumstances in the region.
"Damage has been done to U.S. relations with Jordan, but the simple act of approving drone exports would prevent further harm," Hunter said in the piece. "If Jordanian policy, like President Obama's, is to "degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIS, why is the Obama administration refusing to provide an ally with the tools to do just that?"