A United States military official said Friday that armed American drones have been flying over Iraq over the past day to assist in the US’s continuing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts. Until Thursday, the United States had only been flying unarmed drones over Baghdad and the surrounding areas.
Additionally, the Pentagon official said United States Predator model drones were flying over Baghdad to offer air protection for the American special forces advisers on the ground. The United States military assessment teams are tasked with helping the Iraqi military to develop a strategy that would effectively combat the Islamist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) terror group.
The armed drones will complement the 40 unarmed reconnaissance flights that are already flying over Iraq each day. The drones will take off from an air base in Kuwait.
The armed Predator drones come equipped with two Hellfire missiles. They are able to stay in the air for 24 hours and reach a maximum speed of 135 mph. The Predator drone has seen combat over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Bosnia, and Serbia. Each unit costs roughly $4.03 million dollars. The US Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency are the primary operators of the Predator drone.
To use the drones’ weaponry, the US military will need direct approval from President Barack Obama.
In two separate incidents within Baghdad Thursday, nine young men were shot dead and another twelve were killed after a bomb attack in a Shiite area of the capital city.