Drone Plane Kills Terror Suspects
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DRONE PLANE KILLS TERROR SUSPECTS
By Will Knight
November 5, 2002
An unpiloted "drone" plane armed with anti-tank missiles and remotely
operated by the CIA is reported to have killed six people in Yemen. The six,
described as suspected terrorists, were in the vehicle that was destroyed in
the attack on Monday.
Unpiloted aircraft have been widely used for reconnaissance but Monday's
attack is the first time an armed drone has been used outside a war zone.
The first reported use was in Afghanistan earlier in 2002.
Analysts say the development reflects the growing importance of remotely
operated weapons to the US military. To the military, the benefits are lower
cost and no risk of loss of their personnel.
"Drones are evidently becoming important to CIA covert paramilitary
operations," says John Pike, at the US military think-tank Global Security.
"They have apparently found it to be sufficiently useful."
The aircraft was given the command to strike in Marib, northwest Yemen,
shortly before dawn, according to unnamed US government sources. Reports
indicate that aircraft used was a Predator fitted with Hellfire anti-tank
It is also suggested that the senior al-Qaeda representative Qaed Salim
Sinan al-Harethi was one of the men killed in the strike. Al-Harethi is
wanted by the FBI in connection with a suicide bomb attack on the destroyer
USS Cole off the coast of Yemen in October 2000, which killed 17 sailors.
Directed energy weapons
The US military is currently investing in the development of even more
sophisticated drones and remotely operated weapons. The Pentagon reportedly
plans to spend $2 billion on research into smart bombs and unmanned planes
over the coming year.
In early October 2002, the US army tested a new type of anti-tank missile
designed for use with Predators. This BAT missile uses acoustic and infrared
sensors to home in on moving tanks and armoured vehicles.
At the end of October, the aerospace company BAE Systems revealed that it is
developing small, directed energy pulse weapons designed to be deployed on
military drones. The company is developing both high-power radio frequency
and high-power microwave weapons. These can be used to jam communications
and inflict damage on enemy computer systems.
And in February 2002, the US military revealed the blueprints for a
completely new unmanned plane called the SiMiCon Rotor Craft. This
disc-shaped vehicle is designed to take-off vertically but then fly like a
normal plane, which would make it a more manoeuvrable.
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