The Diffusion of Drone Warfare? Industrial, Organizational and Infrastructural Constraints: Military Innovations and the Ecosystem Challenge

Andrea Gilli & Mauro Gilli, “The Diffusion of Drone Warfare? Industrial, Organizational and Infrastructural Constraints: Military Innovations and the Ecosystem Challenge,” Security Studies (Forthcoming)

50 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2014 Last revised: 26 Mar 2015

Date Written: March 18, 2015

Abstract

Many scholars and policy-makers are concerned that the emergence of drone warfare – a first step towards the robotics age – will promote instability and conflict at the international level. This view is consistent with the widely shared assumption among International Relations scholars that military hardware spreads easily, especially in the age of globalization and real-time communications. In this article, we question this consensus. Drawing from the literature in management, we advance a new theory of diffusion of military innovations and test its two underlying causal mechanisms. First, we argue that designing, developing and manufacturing advanced weapon systems require laboratories, testing and production facilities, as well as know-how and experience that cannot be easily borrowed from other fields. Second, we argue that the adoption of military innovations require both organizational and infrastructural support. We test our two claims on three types of combat-effective drones: loitering attack munitions (LAMs), intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance drones (ISR) and unmanned combat autonomous vehicles (UCAVs). We find that even wealthy, advanced and militarily capable countries such as the US, the UK, Germany and France have struggled to produce or adopt such platforms. We conclude that concerns about the diffusion of drone warfare appear significantly exaggerated as do claims that globalization redistributes military power at the global level. More generally, our analysis sheds light on how the interaction between platform and adoption challenges affects the rate and speed of diffusion of different military innovations.

Keywords: Drones, UAVs, Warfare, Military Technology, Diffusion, Proliferation

JEL Classification: H56, N40, N60, H57

Suggested Citation

Gilli, Andrea and Gilli, Mauro, The Diffusion of Drone Warfare? Industrial, Organizational and Infrastructural Constraints: Military Innovations and the Ecosystem Challenge (March 18, 2015). Andrea Gilli & Mauro Gilli, “The Diffusion of Drone Warfare? Industrial, Organizational and Infrastructural Constraints: Military Innovations and the Ecosystem Challenge,” Security Studies (Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2425750 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2425750

Andrea Gilli (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Mauro Gilli

ETH Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

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