June 27, 2016 09:18
State-of-the-art U.S. drones will practice detecting North Korean missiles in a South Korea-U.S.-Japan drill in waters near Hawaii late this month.
Drones are likely to play an increasing role in missile defense as the U.S. is set on developing one that can also shoot missiles down.
The drill takes place on Tuesday, a source said Sunday. The U.S. drone will be used to practice tracking a hypothetical North Korean ballistic missile.
The drone is an improved version of the MQ-9 Reaper. Equipped with a special camera, it is said to be capable of detecting a missile immediately after it is fired.
Eleven m long and with a wingspan of 20 m, it is also capable of striking targets with up to 1.7 tons of Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs. It can stay in mid air for up to 22 hours, up from 16 hours for the earlier version.
The three countries will send Aegis ships and practice sharing the information on the incoming missile, which will mimic the actions of a North Korean Rodong with a range of 1,150 km.
In future the drone could fly near the demilitarized zone outside North Korean airspace and keep watch on North Korean missiles.
It could form a vital part of Korea's future missile defense, which now has gaping holes in keeping up with the North's accelerating missile development.
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