Sources: Suspected drone strikes kill militants in Pakistan

At least 13 suspected militants were killed in a tribal region of Pakistan near the Afghan border Wednesday, apparently by missiles fired from unmanned U.S. aircraft, two Pakistani intelligence sources told CNN. The strikes are the fourth and fifth suspected drone strikes in less than a week, and come after a suicide bomber killed seven Central Intelligence Agency officers and contractors on December 30. The first incident took place around 3:50 p.m. and the second just over an hour later, apparently targeting militants who gathered at the scene of the first attack. One source said 13 had been killed, and another put the number of dead at 14. The strikes took place in the Sanazala area of the Dattakhel subdivision of the North Waziristan region, the largely autonomous tribal region near the border with Afghanistan. The area has been the scene of heavy fighting between Pakistani military forces and the Taliban, the Islamic militia that also is battling U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Suspected drone strikes took place about once every week to 10 days in October and November, according to records kept by the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank. The U.S. military routinely offers no comment on reported attacks by drones, or unmanned aircraft. However, the United States is the only country operating in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from remote-controlled aircraft.


MQ-9 Reaper Touch and Go at Creech AFB

An MQ-9 Reaper does a touch and go at its home base then heads to R-2508. Call Sign REAPER01.

Suspected US Drone Strike Kills 2 in NW Pakistan

Pakistani intelligence officials say a suspected U.S. drone missile strike has killed at least two people in the country's Taliban-dominated North Waziristan tribal region. Officials said the missiles hit a home near the main city Miran Shah. It is not known if the dead are militants or civilians. North Waziristan is considered to be a stronghold of the Taliban-allied Haqqani network in Afghanistan and a haven for al Qaida fighters. It borders Khost province in Afghanistan, where last week a suicide bomber killed seven CIA officers at a base where agents are believed to coordinate drone strikes in the border region. Earlier, police in the Hangu district in northwest Pakistan said a roadside bomb killed a former provincial minister and at least two other people. Officials say the blast hit the car in which Ghanni-ur Rehman was traveling. Police say his driver and bodyguard were also killed in Sunday's attack in the Hangu district in North West Frontier Province. Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants carry out near daily attacks across northwest Pakistan and in the tribal region along the Afghan border. In South Waziristan, where Pakistan's army continues an anti-Taliban offensive, a military statement said fighting in the last day had killed eight suspected militants and two soldiers. The statement said troops had detained 25 people. In the greater Swat valley, Pakistan's military said security forces shot dead four suspected terrorists who refused demands to stop.


First Flight of the Elbit Systems Hermes 900 UAV

The Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed and built by Elbit Systems, made its first flight December 9, 2009. The unmanned aircraft made the first flight from an airfield in the northern Negev desert. The company plans to conduct more test flights soon, commencing with serial production of the UAV. Unlike other Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV systems, such as the MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper and Heron I, the Hermes 900 can be operated as part of existing, tactical UAV units currently operating the smaller Hermes 450, dramatically extending mission endurance, payload capacity and operational capabilities, without fielding additional infrastructure and support.

Air Force Completes Killer Micro-Drone Project

The Air Force Research Laboratory set out in 2008 to build the ultimate assassination robot: a tiny, armed drone for U.S. special forces to employ in terminating “high-value targets.” The military won’t say exactly what happened to this Project Anubis, named after a jackal-headed god of the dead in Egyptian mythology. But military budget documents note that Air Force engineers were successful in “develop[ing] a Micro-Air Vehicle (MAV) with innovative seeker/tracking sensor algorithms that can engage maneuvering high-value targets.” We have seen in recent years increased strikes by larger Predator and Reaper drones using Hellfire missiles against terrorist-leadership targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But these have three significant drawbacks. First, you can never be quite sure of what you hit. In 2002’s notorious “Tall Man incident,” CIA operatives unleashed a Hellfire at an individual near Zhawar Kili in Afghanistan’s Paktia province. His unusual height convinced the drone controllers that the man was Bin Laden (who stands 6 feet, 5 inches). In fact, he was merely an innocent (if overgrown) Afghan peasant. A second problem is that the Hellfire isn’t exactly the right weapon for the mission. Originally designed as an anti-tank missile, it’s not especially agile, nor is it designed to cope with a target that might swerve or dodge at the last second (like cars and motorbikes). And thirdly, such strikes tend to affect a number of others, as well as the intended target. It raises the risk of killing or injuring innocent bystanders. This was the rationale for Project Anubis. Special Forces already make extensive use of the Wasp drone made by AeroVironment. This is the smallest drone in service, weighing less than a pound. It has an endurance of around 45 minutes, and line-of-sight control extends to 3 miles. It might seem limited compared to larger craft, but the Wasp excels at close-in reconnaissance. Its quiet electric motor means it can get near to targets without their ever being aware of its presence.


U.S. Air Force Predator UAV fires a Hellfire missile at Insurgents attempting to plant an IED in Iraq.

Pakistani Officials: 5 Killed in US Drone Strike

Pakistani security officials say five people have been killed in a U.S. drone (unmanned aircraft) attack on a suspected militant target in Pakistan's northwest tribal region. The officials say missiles hit a house Saturday in the North Waziristan tribal district near Afghanistan. They say two people were wounded. It is not clear if the casualties were militants. Many Taliban gunmen and other militants battling U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan are based in North Waziristan. In the southern port city of Karachi, police say at least 19 people were wounded Saturday in an explosion near a group of Shi'ite Muslims taking part in a procession for the Islamic holy month of Muharram. There were conflicting reports as to the cause of the blast, with some saying it was a car bomb, and others saying it was caused by a firecracker. Pakistan is mostly Sunni, and extremists from the two sects have often clashed in the country. In other violence, Pakistani officials say militants have assassinated a tribal leader who commanded a village militia fighting Taliban militants in North Waziristan. The officials say Gul Mohammad's beheaded body was found on a roadside in the Bajaur district. Taliban militants often attack tribal leaders considered to be pro-government in efforts to gain control in northwest Pakistan.


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