Did U.S. Deploy Killer Drone in S.Korea?

  • By Yang Seung-sik

    January 07, 2020 10:18

    The U.S. military may have deployed in South Korea last year the same MQ-9 Reaper attack drone that was used recently to assassinate Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Quds Force.

    The MQ-9 is capable of launching surgical attacks on people steered by a faceless operative sitting in a bunker somewhere in America. The U.S. Forces Korea already has the Gray Eagle attack drone, and the addition of the Reaper would send a powerful warning to North Korea.

    A military source here said Monday that four C-17A military transport planes landed in Kunsan air base late last year via Alaska and Japan after stopping over at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, the site where it is speculated that the Reaper that assassinated Soleimani was stationed.

    The MQ-9 is capable of flying at a maximum speed of 482 km/h carrying a weapons payload of 1,700 kg. Its main weapon is the so-called "ninja" bomb, formally known as the R9X Hellfire missile that is equipped with state-of-the-art target-tracking system.

    A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone sits at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, in this file photo taken on Jan. 23, 2018. /AFP-Yonhap

    The U.S. military has used the MQ-9 and its predecessor, the MQ-1, drones to assassinate al Qaeda, Taliban and Islamic State officials, as well as substantial numbers of innocent civilians who got in the way. As of 2016, the U.S. had 195 Reaper drones in its arsenal.

    The U.S. military declined to confirm whether it has deployed the MQ-9 here. A U.S. military source said, "Our official position is that we cannot confirm the movements of weapons and strategic assets." But one U.S. military official said, "The MQ-9 and other attack drones are used in battlefield situations in the Middle East, so there is no reason at present to bring them into Korea."

    The USFK already formed a Gray Eagle squadron of 12 of the drones for reconnaissance missions with Apache attack helicopters, so there is no immediate reason to deploy MQ-9s here as well.

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